Thursday, June 30, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams, excerpt six)

from The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams:

“I think it’s a little late for us to be discussing Kant with such earnestness,” Freddie said.

“You mean a little late at night or a little late in life?”

He nodded, meaning both.



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams, excerpt five)

from The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams:

The Marksman stressed awareness and responsibility and the importance of accuracy and power and speed and commitment and attitude. He said that having a gun was like having a pet or a child. He said there was nothing embarrassing about carrying a gun into public places. You can carry a weapon into any establishment except those that serve liquor, unless you’re requested not to by the operator of that establishment. No one else can tell you, only the operator. Embarrassment is not carrying a gun, the Marksman said. Embarrassment is being a victim, naked, in a bloody lump, gazed upon by strangers. That’s embarrassment, he said.



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams, excerpt four)

from The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams:

In New England, Joan discovered that if she slept while it was light she didn’t dream, so she slept in the afternoons and stayed up all night, putting together immense puzzles of Long Island Sound. She lived in terror, actually, but it was rootless, because the worst had already happened. She referred to the days behind her as “those so-called days.”



Monday, June 27, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams, excerpt three)

from The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams:

They are getting rid of the dog. Jackson has been putting ads in the paper. He is enjoying this. He has been advertising for weeks. The dog is free and many people call. Jackson refuses all callers. For three weekends now, he and Jane have talked about nothing except the dog. They will simplify their life and they cannot stop thinking about it, this dog, this act, this choice that lies before them.

The dog has crammed itself behind the pipes beneath the kitchen sink. David squats before him, blowing gently on his nose. The dog thumps his tail on the linoleum.

“We’re getting rid of you, you know,” David says.



Sunday, June 26, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams, excerpt two)

from The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams:

That night, the house was quiet. Constance lay behind Ben on their bed and nuzzled his hair. “Talk to me,” Constance said.

“That’s just alliteration,” Constance said. “Talk to me some more.” But Ben didn’t say much more.

“William Gass said that lovers are alike as lightbulbs,” Ben said. “That’s just alliteration,” Constance said. “Talk to me some more.” But Ben didn’t say much more.



Saturday, June 25, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams, excerpt one)

from The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams:

Jones and his wife have one child, a daughter, who, in turn, has a single child, a girl born six months ago. Jones’s daughter has fallen in with the stars and is using the heavens, as Jones would be the first to admit, more than he ever has. It has, however, brought her only grief and confusion. She has left her husband and brought the baby to Jones. She has also given him her dog. She is going to Mexico, where soon, in the mountains, she will have a nervous breakdown. Jones does not know this, but his daughter has seen it in the stars and is going out to meet it. Jones quickly agrees to care for both the baby and the dog, as this seems to be the only thing his daughter needs from him. The day of the baby’s birth is secondary to the positions of the planets and the terms of houses, quadrants and gradients. Her symbol is a bareback rider. To Jones, this is a graceful thought. It signifies audacity. It also means luck. Jones slips some money in the pocket of his daughter’s suitcase and drives her to the airport. The plane taxis down the runway and Jones waves, holding all their luck in his arms.



Friday, June 24, 2016

the last book I ever read (Donald Antrim's The Hundred Brothers, excerpt twelve)

from The Hundred Brothers: A Novel by Donald Antrim:

Before I could put on the mask I had to get the rest of my costume in order. As a rule this is not difficult because my costume consists only of nakedness. Primitive, elementary, unencumbered, old-fashioned, barbaric, vulnerable, willing, childlike nakedness.



Thursday, June 23, 2016

the last book I ever read (Donald Antrim's The Hundred Brothers, excerpt eleven)

from The Hundred Brothers: A Novel by Donald Antrim:

“Hmn. Hiram was an excellent ball carrier at one time, but he’s too frail for contact sports now.” These words were followed by silence between us, respectful contemplation of the sage man’s gridiron days, I suppose. Finally Seamus announced, “We’re all going to grow old and die.”



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

the last book I ever read (Donald Antrim's The Hundred Brothers, excerpt ten)

from The Hundred Brothers: A Novel by Donald Antrim:

Some nights Benedict will bring a bit of “work” from his entomology laboratory, a living specimen, or, if we’re blessed, several, sealed in a dish. Brothers gather around to hear Benedict describe the pellucid egg sac depending from the thorax of a black beetle that displays horns and an armored casing harder and more resilient than our very own bone-china demitasse cups. If we’re really lucky, Benedict will arrange his beetles on the table and they’ll sprint from place setting to place setting. Occasionally bets are taken, favorite beetles named, finish lines drawn with mayonnaise. You wouldn’t think a bug race could be so exciting. Frequently a beetle will detour, climb into someone’s soup, and kick around awhile before drowning. This can be a tension breaker on nights when we brothers are not getting along. It’s always some twin who shouts, “Benedict, take your roaches off the table! They’re covered with germs!”

Benedict will explain, patiently, that his beetles are clean, and that roaches and humans are diseased.



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

the last book I ever read (Donald Antrim's The Hundred Brothers, excerpt nine)

from The Hundred Brothers: A Novel by Donald Antrim:

He seemed to consider this. “If I give you a taste, will you let go of Hiram’s foot?”

“Yes.”

“Promise?”

“Yes.”



Monday, June 20, 2016

the last book I ever read (Donald Antrim's The Hundred Brothers, excerpt eight)

from The Hundred Brothers: A Novel by Donald Antrim:

I crawled toward the shoe. It was Hiram’s right shoe, not the left. It rested beside its mate inside the open metal cage formed by the walker’s tubular framework. The shoe was a foot away from me. I was flat on my stomach. One dozen broken lilies were in my hands. These flowers were barely more than denuded stems. The stems were bent and their fallen petals lay scattered across the carpet. I inched forward. I suppose you could say I was sneaking up on Hiram’s shoe. I dragged myself along; I stayed low; I tracked my quarry. The carpet’s rank musk smelled delicious. I breathed in the smell. The shoe waited. It seemed to regard me. Tiny impressions punched in the uppers made lacy, delicate arabesques, heavenly swirls in the black leather.

Such thick soles.



Sunday, June 19, 2016

the last book I ever read (Donald Antrim's The Hundred Brothers, excerpt seven)

from The Hundred Brothers: A Novel by Donald Antrim:

Did I present such a sorrowful picture? It is true that I slouch a bit. I try not to hunch over, but I’m not getting any younger, and my shoulders ache after a wintry night sitting in a straight-backed library chair, straining my eyes over water-stained property deeds, blurry date-of-death certificates, illegibly written ships’ registries. When I get up, I’m bushed and I stoop. I don’t think my hair is that bad. My hair is naturally fine and growing thin on top, it’s a fact, and for this reason I leave it long on the sides—just below the ears. Don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t wear a “comb over.” There is nothing more vulgar on a mature man than a comb over. I brush my hair in the morning and, after that, pretty much let it fly where the wind blows it. My clothes, I admit, are a few seasons out of date. What about this? I’ve never followed fashion and I don’t trust men—I’m thinking of the twins with their colorful, expensive matching sweaters—who heed the latest styles. It may be that this particular outfit of mine—navy corduroy jacket with patch pockets, my worsted wool “duck hunting” trousers with their frayed and grimy cuffs, clothes I’m comfortable wearing—would seem, to a bystander, small and rather tight, possibly even constricting. I admit I have recently put on an inch or two around the middle. Like I said, I’m not getting any younger. Of course, midbody weight gain will naturally force a garment to shift. These coat sleeves could be let out. It probably would not hurt to have a tailor cut down the lapels. I suspect that Hiram would have had less to say about my general appearance and demeanor if there had not been so much blood—Maxwell’s blood—staining my tie and shirtfront.



Saturday, June 18, 2016

the last book I ever read (Donald Antrim's The Hundred Brothers, excerpt six)

from The Hundred Brothers: A Novel by Donald Antrim:

Damn. Here I was again in the old unconscious complicity with Hiram’s authoritarian posturing. This happens every time I engage with Hiram—it happens to a lot of us when we engage with him; we feel infantilized—and I invariably promise myself, after taking orders from Hiram, that next time I’ll stand up to him, not obey, and let him get angry if he wants. Tiptoeing around Hiram’s anger resolves nothing and only serves to perpetuate a strained and uneasy state of affairs in which one personality—Hiram’s—overwhelmingly influences the general quality of feeling in the room as a whole. Would it be going too far to imagine my own bad moods, my terrors and despairs and so on, as personalized responses to this room-wide “Hiram-centric” emotional atmosphere? Could it then follow that Hiram is himself responsible, in large part—unwittingly, presumably—for whatever uncomfortableness we brothers experience when we congregate? Might it be possible—if, in fact, Hiram is the root cause of our squabbles and disputes (it would make sense that the firstborn, Hiram, might faithfully embody the rages and pathologies of the preceding generation and, by extension, the generations before that, retreating backward in time; no single person, acting alone, is ever truly a “root cause” of inherent family dilemmas. It would be better to imagine the “root cause” as a set of psychic wounds handed down through the ages. In this way Hiram could be said to resemble that insane ancestral king about whom we know so little save that he was, as I believe I can show if I someday unearth the correct documents, our likely progenitor)—might it be possible to drive a wedge through this ancient and pervasive household trepidation—I don’t know what else to call it—by meeting Hiram’s anger with anger? It was in this absurd spirit of revolt against destiny that I now hurled the flowers to the floor before Hiram’s walker, before Hiram’s feet caged inside the walker’s clackety aluminum framework, and said, “Find a vase yourself, you sadist.”



Friday, June 17, 2016

the last book I ever read (Donald Antrim's The Hundred Brothers, excerpt five)

from The Hundred Brothers: A Novel by Donald Antrim:

“No more wrestling lessons, Doug. I don’t like wrestling.” He sounded out of breath. His voice was scarcely audible. A smell was rising from him.

“All right. But in the future if you’re not going to wrestle correctly, don’t wrestle at all, because you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t think about what you’re doing, and this is precisely what happens every time we wrestle, you don’t think, and that’s how people wind up in the hospital. Let go of my leg.”



Thursday, June 16, 2016

the last book I ever read (Donald Antrim's The Hundred Brothers, excerpt four)

from The Hundred Brothers: A Novel by Donald Antrim:

Battle lines were forming anyway. Fielding in his rage had done Jeremy the valuable service of converting him from playful culprit to injured victim, two qualities practically everybody can empathize with.

Fielding had, in the process, gone too far in two directions. His anger was alarming, his reflexive petition for charity, sentimental. Here was the pathos of a man struggling to identify himself through artistic creation understood as a service, a gift to others—admittedly a beautiful and romantic formulation, though also abstruse and quixotic and, however sincerely expressed (our brother’s earnestness in this matter was not, I think, at issue), difficult to sympathize with in any really tangible way; and Fielding’s violence had without a doubt already made him a distinctly uncompelling object for sympathy or pity; and who among us wants love thrown in his face anyway? Jeremy’s crying was growing louder and louder (he did seem badly hurt, Jeremy, rolling around on bare floor, as a man will when in spectacular pain), so that, in the end, after what seemed a long while, but was, actually, probably less than half a minute’s worth of our standing there self-consciously wondering whom to blame for what and how to feel okay about it—in the end, our brother Fielding, who on any other night might have found twenty or thirty eager to champion his supposedly heartfelt artistic martyrdom—brother Fielding was, this night, pretty much without a prayer.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

the last book I ever read (Donald Antrim's The Hundred Brothers, excerpt three)

from The Hundred Brothers: A Novel by Donald Antrim:

“I guess that’s true,” said Tom in the bright light from Fielding’s camera. Fielding was becoming impatient; he peeked from behind the viewfinder and mouthed the words Come on. Max on his back heaved in oxygen. A short distance away Barry sat on the floor and clutched his head. Virgil beside me shivered and said, “Doug, I don’t feel so good. Will you check my temperature?”

“Okay,” touching my palm to his wet forehead. He was hot. “You’re fine,” I told him. But in the light he looked horribly unwell with his blue-white skin the color of a shaved puppy. Moisture emitting from him beaded up on his head where his head was thinning at the crown. Openmouthed he looked about.



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

the last book I ever read (Donald Antrim's The Hundred Brothers, excerpt two)

from The Hundred Brothers: A Novel by Donald Antrim:

He hunched over, head in hands. Virgil’s body shivered, and he sounded as if he might be crying. “I want to die,” he said.

“We’re all going to die soon enough, Virgil. There’s no reason to wish for death.”



Monday, June 13, 2016

the last book I ever read (Donald Antrim's The Hundred Brothers, excerpt one)

from The Hundred Brothers: A Novel by Donald Antrim:

“I wouldn’t mind a hit of whatever he’s on,” whispered Virgil as the whirling botanist sheered back onto the Persian rug and into a crowd of twins. I couldn’t help feeling, at that moment, a modest thrill. The twins invariably bunch together in a pack during social functions, refusing to mix with the rest of us, preferring to assert their own little club; and it’s obnoxious. Suddenly, in rushed Max, a berserker in their midst, scattering three out of four identical twosomes. It was like something choreographed, Max dervishing armed and dangerous between Lawrence and Peter, on his left, and Scott and Samuel, to his right; and these two pairs at once deftly sidestepping—a shuffle of debonair panic followed by Max pirouetting to make straight for Winston and Charles tumbling backward onto chairs, raising hands to shield their matching terrorized faces crying, “Leave us alone! Leave us alone!”

That was when I noticed Max was wearing one of my favorite Italian ties. Isn’t that the way in families. Someone’s always rifling your closet.



Sunday, June 12, 2016

the last book I ever read (Don DeLillo's Zero K, excerpt ten)

from Zero K by Don DeLillo:

I’m standing at a bus stop when Emma calls. She tells me what happened to Stak, using the least number of words. She tells me that she has quit her job at the school and given up her apartment here and will stay with the boy’s father and I can’t remember whether they were divorced or separated, not that it matters. The bus comes and goes and we talk a while longer, quietly, in the manner of near strangers, and then we assure each other that we’ll talk again.

I don’t tell her that I saw it happen.



Saturday, June 11, 2016

the last book I ever read (Don DeLillo's Zero K, excerpt nine)

from Zero K by Don DeLillo:

Madeline using her thumbnail to gouge price stickers off the items she’d purchased, a determined act of vengeance against whatever was out there doing these things to us. Madeline standing in place, eyes closed, rolling her arms up and around, again and again, a form of relaxation. Madeline watching the traffic channel, forever it seemed, as the cars cross the screen soundlessly, passing out of her view and back into the lives of the drivers and passengers.

My mother was ordinary in her own way, free-souled, my place of safe return.



Friday, June 10, 2016

the last book I ever read (Don DeLillo's Zero K, excerpt eight)

from Zero K by Don DeLillo:

I thought of the Stenmarks. I hadn’t forgotten the twins. This was their idea of postmortem d├ęcor and it occurred to me that there was a prediction implied in this exhibit. Human bodies, saturated with advanced preservatives, serving as mainstays in the art markets of the future. Stunted monoliths of once-living flesh placed in the showrooms of auction houses or set in the windows of an elite antiquarian shop along the stylish stretch of Madison Avenue. Or a headless man and woman occupying a corner of a grand suite in the London penthouse owned by a Russian oligarch.



Thursday, June 9, 2016

the last book I ever read (Don DeLillo's Zero K, excerpt seven)

from Zero K by Don DeLillo:

We went to her place, a modest apartment in a prewar building, east side, and she showed me Stak’s room, which I’d only glimpsed on earlier visits. A pair of ski poles standing in a corner, a cot with an army blanket, an enormous wall map of the Soviet Union. I was drawn to the map, searching the expanse for place-names I knew and those many I’d never encountered. This was the boy’s memory wall, Emma said, a great arc of historic conflict that stretched from Romania to Alaska. On every visit there would come a time when he simply stood and looked, matching his strong personal recollections of abandonment with the collective memory of old crimes, the famines engineered by Stalin that killed millions of Ukrainians.

He talks with his father about recent events, she said. Doesn’t have much to say to me. Putin, Putin, Putin. This is what he says.



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

the last book I ever read (Don DeLillo's Zero K, excerpt six)

from Zero K by Don DeLillo:

He was seated directly behind the driver and spoke into the plexiglass shield, undeterred by traffic noise and street construction. He was fourteen, foreign born, a slant tower, six-four and growing, his voice rushed and dense. The driver did not seem surprised to find himself exchanging words and phrases in his native language with a white boy. This was New York. Every living breathing genotype entered his cab at some point, day or night. And if this was an inflated notion, that was New York as well.

Two people on the TV screen in front of us were speaking remotely about bridge and tunnel traffic.



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

the last book I ever read (Don DeLillo's Zero K, excerpt five)

from Zero K by Don DeLillo:

I wanted to read Gombrowicz in Polish. I didn’t know a word of Polish. I only knew the writer’s name and kept repeating it silently and otherwise. Witold Gombrowicz. I wanted to read him in the original. The phrase appealed to me. Read him in the original. Madeline and I at dinner, there we are, some kind of muggy stew in cereal bowls, I’m fourteen or fifteen and keep repeating the name softly, Gombrowicz, Witold Gombrowicz, seeing it spelled out in my head and saying it, first name and last—how could you not love it—until my mother elevates her gaze from the bowl and delivers a steely whisper, Enough.



Monday, June 6, 2016

the last book I ever read (Don DeLillo's Zero K, excerpt four)

from Zero K by Don DeLillo:

When she was at work I’d take a phone message for her and write down the information, making certain to tell her when she came home. Then I waited for her to return the call. Actively watched and waited. I reminded her once and then again that the lady from the dry cleaner had called and she looked at me with a certain expression, the one that said I am looking at you this way because there is no point wasting words when you can recognize the look and know that is says what should not need to be said. It made me nervous, not the look but the phone call waiting to be returned. Why isn’t she calling back. What is she doing that’s so important that she can’t call me back. Time is passing, the sun is setting, the person is waiting, I am waiting.

I wanted to be bookish and failed. I wanted to steep myself in European literature. There I was in our modest garden apartment, in a nondescript part of Queens, steeping myself in European literature. The word steep was the whole point. Once I decided to steep myself, there was no need to read the word. I tried at times, made an effort but failed. I was technically unsteeped but also ever-intentioned, seeing myself in the chair reading a book even as I sat in the chair watching a movie on TV with French or German subtitles.



Sunday, June 5, 2016

the last book I ever read (Don DeLillo's Zero K, excerpt three)

from Zero K by Don DeLillo:

“Do you know that she stabbed me once? No, you don’t know this. She never told you. Why would she? She stabbed me in the shoulder with a steak knife. I was at the table eating the steak and she came up behind me and stabbed me in the shoulder. Not a four-star-restaurant steak knife with macho overtones but it hurt like hell anyway. It also made me bleed all over a new shirt. That’s all. Nothing more. I didn’t go to the emergency room, I went to the bathroom, ours, and doctored it pretty well. I didn’t call the cops either. Just a family disagreement although I don’t recall now what the disagreement was. Getting rid of a nice shirt, that’s what I recall. Maybe she stabbed me because she hated the shirt. Maybe she was getting even with the shirt by stabbing me. These are things in a marriage. Nobody knows what’s in the marriage next door. It’s tough enough figuring out what’s in your own marriage. Where were you at the time? I don’t know, you were beddy-bye, or at summer camp, or walking the dog. Didn’t we have a dog for two weeks? Anyway I made it a point to throw away the steak knife because I didn’t think it would be a suitable utensil for us to use again even if we’d all gathered together and devised scrubbing methods that would render the thing blood-free and germ-free and memory-free. Even if we’d all agreed on the most fastidious methods. You and I and Madeline.”

There was something I hadn’t realized until now. Ross had shaved his beard.



Saturday, June 4, 2016

the last book I ever read (Don DeLillo's Zero K, excerpt two)

from Zero K by Don DeLillo:

Three people came toward me, one of them a boy in a motorized wheelchair that resembled a toilet. He was nine or ten and watched me all the way. His upper body was tilted severely to one side but his eyes were alert and I wanted to stop and talk to him. The adults made it clear that this was not possible. They flanked the wheelchair and stared straight ahead, into authorized space, stranding me in my pause, my good intentions.



the last book I ever read (Don DeLillo's Zero K, excerpt one)

from Zero K by Don DeLillo:

Ash Wednesday, once, I went to church and stood in line. I looked around at the statues, plaques and pillars, the stained glass windows, and then I went to the altar rail and knelt. The priest approached and made his mark, a splotch of holy ash thumb-printed to my forehead. Dust thou art. I was not Catholic, my parents were not Catholic. I didn’t know what we were. We were Eat and Sleep. We were Take Daddy’s Suit to the Dry Cleaner.

When he left I decided to embrace the idea of being abandoned, or semi-abandoned. My mother and I understood and trusted each other. We went to live in Queens, in a garden apartment that had no garden. This suited us both. I let the hair grow back on my aboriginal shaved head. We went for walks together. Who does this, mother and teenage son, in the United States of America? She did not lecture me, or rarely did, on my swerves out of observable normality. We ate bland food and batted a tennis ball back and forth on a public court.



Friday, June 3, 2016

The Buy-In: How Auburn Built A Women's College World Series Contender From Scratch



This is what I was doing in Auburn two weeks ago: (thanks to the fine folks at Vice Sports, Auburn Softball, friends and family, related and unrelated entities (including Patrice at Delta Airlines in Birmingham) for making it happen)



Wednesday, June 1, 2016

the last book I ever read (Susan Southard's Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, excerpt ten)

from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard:

Taniguchi stands up from the table to head to the balcony for a cigarette break. As he passes the young American girl videotaping the interview, he pauses for a moment and almost smiles.

“Erase the bad parts,” he says, “okay?”