Monday, August 31, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt thirteen)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

Garth leaned down and whispered firmly into my ear, “I told him we’re Republicans. Black. Republicans. Got it?”

“What? What are you talking about? Why are we naked?” I had many questions, but this seemed the most pertinent.

“Contamination, dog,” was Garth’s answer.

“Contamination from what?” I must have yelled on that last word, because just then out of the turquoise bush beside me hopped an Easter bunny, clearly startled. Albino and obese, it darted its nervous red eyes in confusion at the scene.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt twelve)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

“Little Debbie,” I called to her, but my delusion just giggled and kept skipping around. Skipping and chewing, swallowing then whistling. This was a girl whose feet didn’t touch the ground. Literally, they didn’t touch the ground, floating a good two inches above it yet still managing to make those lovely tapping sounds. Little Debbie’s shoes may have missed the floor, but her crumbs didn’t, and the more she skipped around, the more her crumbs fell where I could come eat them later. Skip, Little Debbie. Dance! If it would help, I would be her beige Bojangles. For that pastry good stuff, I would bug out my eyes and hop up and down the stairs with her in blackface just like Louis Armstrong had done for Shirley Temple. I didn’t care about principles, and I didn’t even care that this was surely all a hallucination. I wanted some of that sweet stuff too. Bite off her head and scoop the cream filling out of her neck with my hands.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt eleven)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

Nathaniel Latham was a Morehouse Man, and to me this said everything about him. This is a distinctive breed, one possible to identify without the sight of a college ring or knowledge of its academic history. There is the entrepreneurial optimism, visible in his buoyant steps, there is the near-religious belief in the self and a refusal to acknowledge that any obstacle could thwart him. The Morehouse Man is a uniquely American creation and shares the young nation’s traditional certainty that the days ahead will be greater than the days behind. His clothes are crisp, conservative but energetic, ever waiting for that magazine cover that will one day reflect on his success. The Morehouse Man, at his finest, is America at is finest. Once, while sitting at a dusty café in Accra, I looked past my dog-eared copy of The Garies and Their Friends to see the red polo shirt, perfectly trimmed dreads, and platinum watch of a Morehouse Man sitting at the table next to me. What struck me about the scene was not seeing such a familiar sight thousands of miles away at a little burger stand in West Africa. No, what I found most impressive was that even so far out of context I could recognize the Morehouse Man, which a conversation with this brother soon confirmed.

Friday, August 28, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt ten)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

I am bored with the topic of Atlantic slavery. I have come to be bored because so many boring people have talked about it. So many artists and writers and thinkers, mediocre and genius, have used it because it’s a big, easy target. They appropriate it, adding no new insight or profound understanding, instead degrading it with their nothingness. They take the stink of the slave hold and make it a pungent cliché, take the blood-soaked chains of bondage and pervert them into Afrocentric bling. Parroting a vague “400 Year” slogan that underestimates for the sake of religious formality. What’s even more infuriating is that, despite this stupidity, this repetitious sophistry, the topic of chattel slavery is still unavoidable for its American descendants. It is the great story, the big one, the connector that gives the reason for our nation’s prosperity and for our very existence within it. But still, aren’t there any other stories to tell? So many have come to the topic of slavery because they think the subject matter will give them gravitas, or prizes, or because they find comfort in its familiarity. To be fair, something so big (nearly 20 million slaves kidnapped), for so long (from A.D. 1441 until the end of the nineteenth century) is nearly impossible to dance gracefully with. But still. That is the source of my love for the slave narratives: they are by their nature original, even when they draw on the forms of earlier literary sources. They are never duplicitous, because they all have one motivation: to document the atrocity of chattel slavery and thereby assist in ending it. Their artistry is surprising, considerable, devoid of pretension and with passion in its place.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt nine)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

“They took my badges. They took all my badges, and my clothes. And they took my French horn too,” he told me. Saying who “they” were wasn’t necessary. They were the beasts at the door. They were the unthinking. They were the elementals of destruction we both knew intimately. We looked at each other, relaxed. He knew who I was, and I knew who he was too. He was the Boy Scout guy. He was Garth Frierson. Garth sat down Indian style on the floor, continued slowly turning through the pages in his book as if he was looking for someplace to escape to. I sat down, joining him, and did the same with my own book. We locked the library up together from that afternoon until high school.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt eight)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

In sixth grade a little effete frog named James Baldwin whupped my ass. He was a foot shorter than me, but he hung with hulking eighth-grade girls, who towered over both of us the entire time, taunting. It was by the bushes in the asphalt driveway of my apartment building and it was because I’d gotten lazy. I had a whole plan for getting home unmolested, it involved shortcuts along the train tracks and alternating building entrances, but it’d been two weeks since the last attack and I let my guard down. I bought a Reggie bar at the drugstore before heading toward my building: they must have monitored the corner, followed me. I didn’t fight back, because if I did the ladies would have really hurt me, and the only thing more humiliating than getting my ass kicked by this little shit would have been getting my ass kicked by a gaggle of girls, even ones as prematurely huge as these postpubescent vultures. I had never even met James Baldwin, but it didn’t matter, he attacked me anyway. I was different. He was puny, weak, but I was weaker. Kids have to feel like they’re more powerful than someone.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt seven)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

Never had my own footsteps seemed so loud. Fortunately, the closer I came to the source, the louder its inhuman breath seemed to boom. Turning the corner, I saw the beginning of the beast, a massive black form in the shadow. As I inched closer, I could see that whatever it was was sprawled out, legs before it as it sat leaning against an ice wall. Heading forward in my slowest gait, I could see its chest heaving in the shadow, shuddering from the effort. Then as I came even closer, I saw the creature push a massive hand into its side and remove a small, high-fructose-corn-syrup laden Little Debbie snack cake and shove half the thing into its mouth.

“Damn Negro, you about scared me half to death. Why you creeping like that?” Garth managed. I say “managed” because he had a good amount of pastry in his jowls at the time. Hearing his voice, Angela and Nathaniel came up behind me. Angela used her adrenaline-fueled energy wisely: by giving Garth a good unwarranted kick in his leg before turning around and stomping back in the direction of our starting point. Nathaniel offered a smile and a shrug before he followed her.

Monday, August 24, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt six)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

Shackleton’s Sorrow looks just like those mountain ridges out here. Tell me it don’t. Now how could Karvel know that?” With a sweeping movement, a coconut crème roll clutched in his glove, Garth motioned to the space beyond our frozen windshield, his thick parka and snack cake cellophane rustling in unison to accent his gesture. It did look like the painting to me. So did all the other mountain ridges Garth had made the same claim of in the weeks before. This range was about ten miles away; its pale ridges were all that gave the landscape a sense of scale. Antarctica felt to me like nothing. Frozen nothing. Nihilism in physical form. If it was to be loved, it was to be loved for its lack of content, people, possessions.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt five)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

“This bar holds a lot of memories for me. I was here, taking a break from working a dock in Brooklyn, the morning the truck bomb went off in the shipping entrance of the Twin Towers. I heard the bomb go off, went outside. Smelled the smoke and saw the soot-covered people, and it all kicked in. I knew exactly what I had to do. It was time to march,” he told me, hit the last word slow and hard so that I could feel the impact, then took a swig of his carrot juice. Immediately locating a Kinko’s, my cousin had a flyer typed, printed out, and copied by the hundred before the smoke had even cleared. Setting the rally for four hours in the future, Booker Jaynes barked the news and handed out the flyers as he took his long walk north, from City Hall to Fourteenth Street. Hours later, flyers dispensed and throat parched from calling others to the cause, Booker Jaynes arrived at his rally point at Union Square, the historic site of American civil disobedience, and received the shock of his life.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt four)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

“Me!” came a slight but jubilant voice from the far corner of the room. It was the woman in the pink raincoat, who now pumped her first, staring at her report as if a great bounty had been won. Her round brown face did look like she belonged to a tribe, but more Igbo than Apache.

When I turned back to Mahalia Mathis, she seemed to have aged nearly ten years in as many seconds. Her mouth was agape, her top denture clacked loosely down for lack of support. Mrs. Mathis thought the thirty-two percent Native was her, I realized. That was the only thing that had let her keep her composure before now. Putting a trembling hand to the folder before her, Mrs. Mathis looked inside, and I peered discreetly over her shoulder. Two percent Native. Twenty-three percent European. Seventy-five percent African. This last bit I saw when I picked the findings off the linoleum after Mahalia Mathis collapsed, unconscious.

Friday, August 21, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt three)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

Once the community center had been entered it was rather easy to locate the dozen or so NAACG members. This was not because the group looked like Native Americans; to my eyes, they looked like any gathering of black American folks, some tan and most brown. What distinguished this group was their attire. The first man I saw in the room had a full Stegosaurus spine of white feathers that reached all the way down to his moccasins. He was sitting on the edge of a metal foldout chair trying not to harm his plumage while he sipped his coffee from a Dunkin’ Donuts cup. As I walked in with Mrs. Mathis on my arm, he turned toward us and the red war paint he had on his nose and cheeks spread as he smiled. Others in the room were more muted in their attire, but all seemed to have their flair. By the open box of donuts a woman wore a casual coat made of simulated Hopi cloth. Over by the blackboard a tall, slender brother chuckled and chatted on his cell phone, his raised hand a miniature museum of turquoise finger ornaments. Past him, a portly man with chemically relaxed hair tied into two greasy ponytails twirled one of those wet ropes with his finger as he waited for the meeting to begin. The only person besides myself who was not outfitted in some form of indigenous attire was a brown-skinned woman in a pink raincoat sitting in the farthest chair from the door as she read a magazine, but clearly she was the waiting escort of someone in the group.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt two)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

I used to complain that the only things the white literary world would accept of Africa’s literary descendants were reflections of the Europeans themselves: works that focused on the effects of white racism, or the ghettos white economic and social disfranchisement of blacks created. I still think that, I have just come to the understanding that I’m not better. I like Poe, I like Melville, I like Hemingway, but what I like the most about the great literature created by the Americans of European descent is the Africanist presence within it. I like looking for myself in the whitest of pages. I like finding evidence of myself there, after being told my footprints did not exist on that sand. I think the work of the great white writers is important, but I think it’s most important when it’s negotiating me and my people, because I am as arrogant and selfish a reader as any other.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt one)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

“Just get your books, dog. And get out of there. Pack up your place, focus on what you can do. You want, you can come back with me to Detroit. It’s cheap, I got a big crib. Ain’t no jobs, but still.” Garth and I drove up the Taconic in the rain. I was still drunk, and the wet road like lines on a snake’s back and my stomach was going to spill. Even drunk, I knew any escape plan that involved going to Detroit, Michigan, was a harbinger of doom. Garth Frierson was my boy, from when we were boys, from when I lived in a basement apartment in Philly and he lived over the laundromat next door. Garth didn’t even ask how many books I had, but must have suspected.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Speechwriter by Barton Swaim, excerpt ten)

from The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim:

Let me ask that question in a more pointed way: Why do we trust men who have sought and obtained high office by innumerable acts of vanity and self-will? When a work colleague makes a habit of insisting on his own competence and virtue, we may tolerate him, we may even admire his work, but his vanity is not an inducement to trust him. Why, then, do we trust the men who make careers of persuading us of their goodness and greatness, and who compete for our votes? Catherine Zuckert makes this point powerfully in an essay on Tom Sawyer. Tom, remember is brave and clever and has a firm sense of the right thing to do, but he is animated mainly by a hunger for glory. He is, in short, the essence of an able politician. “People like Tom Sawyer serve others not for the sake of the others,” writes Zuckert. “They serve because they glory in receiving glory. . . . We should reward such people with the fame they so desire – if and when they perform real public services. But we should not trust them.” I feel the force of that last sentence now: we go badly wrong when we trust them. Indeed much of the hand-wringing commentary about the loss of trust in government resulting from Vietnam and Watergate is simply, I now think, a failure to appreciate the simple truth that politicians should never have been trusted in the first place. They may be lauded when they’re right and venerated when they’re dead, but they should never be trusted.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Speechwriter by Barton Swaim, excerpt nine)

from The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim:

The governor had two things in his favor. The first was that the legislature wasn’t in session. If it had been, impeachment would have come up quickly, and his enemies would have finished him off. The second was that the lieutenant governor was André Bauer. Bauer was the youngest lieutenant governor in state history, and he acted the part. He was known for showing up at bars and parties with a different twenty-year-old woman on his arm each time. He was young, midthirties, but he was one of those old-school politicians whose campaigns consist of a few badly made television ads and a million handshakes. He’d walk around, locking eyes with anyone within a ten-foot radius, saying, “How are you? Good to see you!” You had to admire his discipline. Like a lot of young up-and-coming politicians, though, he had lost the ability to seem authentic. He had vast energy but no sagacity. Once, he showed up at a homeless shelter to hand out blankets, only it was April and 70 degrees outside. Another time he showed up at a home for the elderly to hand out electric fans: it was late August.

More widely known were Bauer’s misadventures behind the wheel – one resulting in a reckless driving charge, the next in a warning for speeding, and still another resulting in no charge at all for exceeding a hundred in a seventy-mile-per-hour zone. And during his reelection campaign he had crashed a plane apparently by the simple expedient of not knowing how to fly it. Neither instance suggested Bauer to be the possessor of wisdom. At the time of the governor’s fall, I heard a great many people say they didn’t favor resignation for the sole reason that André Bauer would become governor.

Friday, August 14, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Speechwriter by Barton Swaim, excerpt eight)

from The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim:

Over the next few hours, as colleagues gathered in the press office to express a variety of opinions about what had happened, I kept quiet and gathered the essential facts. He had been in Buenos Aires, not on the Appalachian Trail. His mistress was named Maria. A reporter with The State had gotten a tip that he was on a flight from Buenos Aires to Atlanta, and she’d confronted him as he stepped into the terminal. The first lady had known about it for some time and fiercely disapproved. He’d said in the press conference that he’d spent the “last five days crying in Argentina,” which we all agreed was an unfortunate way of putting it.

He was not resigning, not immediately anyhow.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Speechwriter by Barton Swaim, excerpt seven)

from The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim:

The governor once received a request for a letter congratulating a young man for gaining acceptance to venerable boys’ choir. What you’d want to say was “That’s a remarkable honor for you, and I wish you the best of luck as you sharpen your talent.” But you needed more verbiage to fill out the paragraph, so you’d write, “That’s an incredible honor for you, and I do wish you the best of luck as you sharpen the remarkable talent you so obviously possess in spades.” (The governor was always saying people had qualities “in spades,” and he liked to make sentences trail off into superfluous phrases.) One sentence gives you only six or seven extra words, but if you do this for five or six sentences in succession, you’ve turned a perfunctory note into a heartfelt letter on which some time was spent.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Speechwriter by Barton Swaim, excerpt six)

from The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim:

On the way to the first event, the governor read the Wall Street Journal. When he was done, he folded it up and threw it into the backseat – that is, at me. I had heard that if you sat in the backseat when he was in the front, the governor would throw things at you. Not at you, exactly, just into the backseat. But he wasn’t trying not to throw things at you, either. When he was working, staffers existed – physically, literally – only insofar as they could aid him. In one sense it was impossible not to admire the man’s ability to fix his attention so exclusively on whatever he was doing. Still, it was unnerving to realize that, to him, at that moment, you were a nonentity; you weren’t.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Speechwriter by Barton Swaim, excerpt five)

from The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim:

He wrote so many letters that occasionally he would forget the name of the person he was writing to. “This is a letter to what’s-his-name,” he’d begin. “Jeane will know his name, ask Jeane.” Jeane was our senate liaison and someone who knew nearly everyone. “Dear whoever,” he would continue, “I just wanted to let you know how sorry I was to hear about your dad. I remember losing my dad when I was seventeen, and all I can say is it wasn’t easy. Please know you’ll be in our prayers over the coming weeks and months.” I wondered if the governor would pray for somebody whose name he couldn’t remember. Would he tell God to ask Jeane?

Monday, August 10, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Speechwriter by Barton Swaim, excerpt four)

from The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim:

Our first task was mastering the language we already had; the second, for me, was developing the capacity to produce it anew. This wasn’t going well. I took great pains with my compositions; I groped for just the right word, rearranged sentences to make them strike the ear in just the right way. That’s the difficult thing about writing well: you labor for a long time over a single paragraph, as I have this one, and in the end, if you’re successful, it looks as if it took no work at all. I anticipated that the governor would sense the difference between what I produced and what my colleagues and predecessors produced.

I did not feel superior to them in other respects. They were far more intelligent and capable than I was and worked faster. They understood the import of complicated policy decisions. They could speak credibly about the differences between competing bills on income tax reduction and the principles underlying each one. They seemed to have a natural and instantaneous grasp of things like labor force growth and global GDP. Yet when they tried to put their understanding into written form, they sounded like morons. Nat was a partial exception here, but even he seemed to think that writing was good only if it sounded grandiose, which to him meant using blistering sarcasm, cute analogies, and of course alliteration.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Speechwriter by Barton Swaim, excerpt three)

from The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim:

It’s impossible to attain much success in politics if you’re the sort of person who can’t abide disingenuousness. This isn’t to say politics is full of lies and liars; it has no more liars than other fields do. Actually, one hears very few proper lies in politics. Using vague, slippery, or just meaningless language is not the same as lying: it’s not intended to deceive so much as to preserve options, buy time distance oneself from others, or just to sound like you’re saying something instead of nothing.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Speechwriter by Barton Swaim, excerpt two)

from The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim:

The governor’s Christmas gifts were a yearly joke. In his congressional days, his wife had bought gifts for the staff, spending a modest sum, $200 or so, according to the legend. When he discovered this, he denounced his wife’s improvidence so forcefully that she vowed to leave the task to him. The result was a comedy that, in its way, was more valuable than actual gifts: the governor would regift items that had been given to him by grateful constituents throughout the year. My first year in the office I received a T-shirt advertising a hardware store (“a family business since 1972!”). The next year I received several cans of shoe polish wrapped in cellophane. Mack got a three-year-old jar of preserves. Another staffer received a Christmas ornament bearing the words “Merry Christmas! Love, the Peterkins.”

Friday, August 7, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Speechwriter by Barton Swaim, excerpt one)

from The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim:

The remarkable thing about his reputation for cheapness is that it was true. Or true in spirit. Everybody had a story about the governor’s parsimony. I can remember being in the car with him on a sizzling summer afternoon, a security officer driving, the car stopped at a train crossing. While we waited for the train to pass, the governor insisted that the officer turn off the car in order to save gas. Deprived of the air conditioner, we sat for a few minutes while the train took its time. I could see a bead of sweat dropping off the tip of his chin as he talked on the phone and pretended not to notice how miserable he had made himself and us.

Most of his clothing was in a deplorable state. He would not consent to have it dry-cleaned: his staff, and his wife, would occasionally have his shirts and trousers cleaned without his knowledge. He wore only one coat, a navy blazer with one or two missing sleeve buttons, and one pair of trousers, charcoal gray. Both had so many stains that, had they been of a lighter color, their filth would have been revolting. Once I saw inside the collar of one of his white button-up shirts: it was solid brown. Another time he wore the same white shirt, an ink stain on the sleeve, for almost two weeks straight.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Stranger by Albert Camus, excerpt six)

from The Stranger by Albert Camus:

It was at one such moment that I once again refused to see the chaplain. I was lying down, and I could tell from the golden glow in the sky that evening was coming on. I had just denied my appeal and I could feel the steady pulse of my blood circulating inside me. I didn’t need to see the chaplain. For the first time in a long time I thought about Marie. The days had been long since she’d stopped writing. That evening I thought about it and told myself that maybe she had gotten tired of being the girlfriend of a condemned man. It also occurred to me that maybe she was sick, or dead. These things happen. How was I to know, since apart from our two bodies, now separated, there wasn’t anything to keep us together or even to remind us of each other? Anyway, after that, remembering Marie meant nothing to me. I wasn’t interested in her dead. That seemed perfectly normal to me, since I understood very well that people would forget me when I was dead. They wouldn’t have anything more to do with me. I wasn’t even able to tell myself that it was hard to think those things.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Stranger by Albert Camus, excerpt five)

from The Stranger by Albert Camus:

Between my straw mattress and the bed planks, I had actually found an old scrap of newspaper, yellow and transparent, half-stuck to the canvas. On it was a news story, the first part of which was missing, but which must have taken place in Czechoslovakia. A man had left a Czech village to seek his fortune. Twenty-five years later, and now rich, he had returned with a wife and a child. His mother was running a hotel with his sister in the village where he’d been born. In order to surprise them, he had left his wife and child at another hotel and gone to see his mother, who didn’t recognize him when he walked in. As a joke he’d had the idea of taking a room. He had shown off his money. During the night his mother and his sister had beaten him to death with a hammer in order to rob him and had thrown his body in the river. The next morning the wife had come to the hotel and, without knowing it, gave away the traveler’s identity. The mother hanged herself. The sister threw herself down a well. I must have read that story a thousand times. On the one hand it wasn’t very likely. On the other, it was perfectly natural. Anyway, I thought the traveler pretty much deserved what he got and that you should never play games.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Stranger by Albert Camus, excerpt four)

from The Stranger by Albert Camus:

There are some things I’ve never liked talking about. A few days after I entered prison, I realized that I wouldn’t like talking about this part of my life.

Monday, August 3, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Stranger by Albert Camus, excerpt three)

from The Stranger by Albert Camus:

From a distance I noticed old Salamano standing on the doorstep. He looked flustered. When we got closer, I saw that he didn’t have his dog. He was looking all over the place, turning around, peering into the darkness of the entryway, muttering incoherently, and then he started searching the street again with his little red eyes. When Raymond asked him what was wrong, he didn’t answer right away. I barely heard him mumble “Stinking bastard,” and he went on fidgeting around. I asked him where his dog was. He snapped at me and said he was gone. And then all of a sudden the words came pouring out: “I took him to the Parade Ground, like always. There were lots of people around the booths at the fair. I stopped to watch ‘The King of the Escape Artists.’ And when I was ready to go, he wasn’t there. Sure, I’ve been meaning to get him a smaller collar for a long time. But I never thought the bastard would take off like that.”

Sunday, August 2, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Stranger by Albert Camus, excerpt two)

from The Stranger by Albert Camus:

We went upstairs and I was about to leave him when he said, “I’ve got some blood sausage and some wine at my place. How about joining me?” I figured it would save me the trouble of having to cook for myself, so I accepted. He has only one room too, and a little kitchen with no window. Over his bed he has a pink-and-white plaster angel, some pictures of famous athletes, and two or three photographs of naked women. The room was dirty and the bed was unmade. First he lit his paraffin lamp, then he took a pretty dubious-looking bandage out of his pocket and wrapped it around his right hand. I asked him what he’d done to it. He said he’d been in a fight with some guy who was trying to start trouble.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

the last book I ever read (The Stranger by Albert Camus, excerpt one)

from The Stranger by Albert Camus:

We all had some coffee, served by the caretaker. After that I don’t know any more. The night passed. I remember opening my eyes at one point and seeing that all the old people were slumped over asleep, except for one old man, with his chin resting on the back of his hands wrapped around his cane, who was staring at me as if he were just waiting for me to wake up. Then I dozed off again. I woke up because my back was hurting more and more. Dawn was creeping up over the skylight. Soon afterwards, one of the old men woke up and coughed a lot. He kept hacking into a large checkered handkerchief, and every cough was like a convulsion. He woke the others up, and the caretaker told them that they ought to be going. They got up. The uncomfortable vigil had left their faces ashen looking. On their way out, and much to my surprise, they all shook my hand—as if that night during which we hadn’t exchanged as much as a single word had somehow brought us closer together.