Monday, December 31, 2018

the last book I ever read (Early Work: A Novel by Andrew Martin, excerpt five)

from Early Work: A Novel by Andrew Martin:

Him him told her that a short story she’d written was “a really nice first effort” and that she should come back to it once she’d read some of the books he thought she’d find useful. (She had not, at this point, made it very far in Mason & Dixon.) She got drunk for courage and emailed the story anyway to a friend who worked at an important magazine, asking him only to tell her she wasn’t crazy for thinking it wasn’t bad. In response, she got a note from the fiction editor a week later, saying that the story was “brilliantly conceived, if not entirely emotionally coherent,” and that while they couldn’t take it, they’d be interested to see more work in the future. It shook her so deeply that she didn’t write a word of fiction for over a year. She didn’t tell Todd about any of it.



Sunday, December 30, 2018

the last book I ever read (Early Work: A Novel by Andrew Martin, excerpt four)

from Early Work: A Novel by Andrew Martin:

In the morning, after Julia got up and went to work, I moved as quietly as I could from the bedroom to the kitchen to make coffee. But when I glanced around the corner, I saw that Leslie was awake, lying across the length of the couch with a book held over her face and a sheet covering her body. I watched her read for a minute, her eyes a model of concentration and tranquility, her mouth twitching downward in a slight frown. I recognized the book, a hardcover anniversary reissue of Blood Meridian that I’d poached from my old job.

“Have you read that?” I said finally.

She didn’t startle, simply turned her head slightly to acknowledge me while keeping the book aloft above her head.



Saturday, December 29, 2018

the last book I ever read (Early Work: A Novel by Andrew Martin, excerpt three)

from Early Work: A Novel by Andrew Martin:

It probably wasn’t a great idea for me to be driving, legally speaking, but I felt good, floating but focused, directing the car’s movement rather than steering. And I loved the blunted calm radiating from Leslie, the coiled potential. I was bringing her back with me. It didn’t matter that nothing could happen between us; it was better that way. She would be in our little house, sleeping under the same roof, and she wouldn’t leave until the morning. On the less positive side, she’d see what a shithole our house was. Which, I realized abruptly, was the thing that would upset Julia about Leslie coming over, rather than anything about her particular. It was 11:30; I could do a quick straightening before she got home. But the fundamental bombed-out quality—the mountains of dog hair, the grime on the windowsills, the creeping mold on the coffee table—was unalterable. I would have been very surprised if Leslie gave a shit about the cleanliness of the house, but Julia would say that wasn’t the point. She cared about how it would look, about what it would say about us, our carelessness as humans. And she was right.



Friday, December 28, 2018

the last book I ever read (Early Work: A Novel by Andrew Martin, excerpt two)

from Early Work: A Novel by Andrew Martin:

Julia came to visit plenty, of course, but it felt forced, us trying to find things to like about New Haven. There was some okay pizza, and we saw the Hold Steady at Toad’s Place. We got mugged. My apartment was huge, filthy, and barely furnished. My mother insisted on helping me buy an expensive bed that proved extremely difficult to get up the stairs and through the door.

In March, Julia was accepted at three medical schools—Pittsburgh, Penn State, and the University of Virginia. Penn State was out—the medical campus was in Hershey, and Julia hated chocolate. We’d heard good things about Pittsburgh but couldn’t find them in action when we visited. The dive bar we’d been recommended was empty. The Vietnamese restaurant was terrible. We’d thought it would be kind of like Philadelphia, but instead it was kind of like Cincinnati. She chose Virginia.



Thursday, December 27, 2018

the last book I ever read (Early Work: A Novel by Andrew Martin, excerpt one)

from Early Work: A Novel by Andrew Martin:

Anna, at the stove, turned to say something to her and caught my eye through the window. Her momentary alarm—this was during my Allman Brothers phase—quickly turned to enthusiasm, feigned or otherwise, at my arrival. I held up my bottle of wine and baguette, raised my eyebrows, and mouthed “Door?” She circled her finger in the air like E. T.: go around, or back home, whichever. So I continued along the path, drawing a tight shadow of a smile from the woman at the cutting board, and eventually arrived at a grand door ornamented with a huge metal knocker. A long moment later Anna appeared with an orotund “Oh, hello,” and I was in.

Anna was magnificently curly headed and just shy of troublingly thin, with a squished cherubic face that seemed to promise PG-13 secrets. She’d grown up in the area and had recently moved back for somewhat mysterious reasons, possibly involving a now ex-boyfriend’s arrest for dealing prescription drugs. She radiated the kind of positivity that suggested barely repressed rage.



Monday, December 24, 2018

the last book I ever read (Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, excerpt thirteen)

from National Book Award Finalist The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai:

She expected the film to end right there, but instead, as the laughter died down, the camera lingered uncomfortably on a man collecting his long black hair into a ponytail. On a mother walking by through the last gawkers, pulling her young son by the hand. On Yale and Charlie walking off down the sidewalk, so clearly a couple--inches from each other, but not touching. Around them, a silence as big as the city.

Then the whole film looped again. There they all stood, the Bistro whole. Boys with hands in pockets, waiting for everything to begin.



Sunday, December 23, 2018

the last book I ever read (Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, excerpt twelve)

from National Book Award Finalist The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai:

Owning a house. Painting the door, so he could tell his friends to look for the purple door.



Saturday, December 22, 2018

the last book I ever read (Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, excerpt eleven)

from National Book Award Finalist The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai:

“Some friends of Modi’s wanted to make a death mask. One was Kisling, the painter, who’d become a friend of Ranko’s in the war. And Lipchitz the sculptor. They had no idea what they were doing. The third was an astrologer. And they invited Ranko to watch. I was jealous, because I’d wanted to say goodbye to Modi, and Ranko, who’d hated him, got to go instead. The trouble was, Lipchitz used the wrong plaster, something too abrasive, so when they took it off”—she glanced at each of them—“it peeled off his cheek, and his eyelids. The men panicked and dropped the cast right on the floor. In the end, they pieced it back together, and Lipchitz ended up essentially carving the face. It’s in the museum at Harvard now, and I’ve no desire to see it.”

Fiona seemed fine but Roman looked pale. The imagination that had been allowing him to picture Ranko so vividly was probably not his friend right now. Yale felt woozy himself.

“It drove Ranko over the edge,” Nora said. “He’d already been a wreck, but I think seeing someone—someone of a great talent, no less—turn into a skeleton before his eyes . . . Well, he managed to tell me the story, but it was about the last thing he ever said to me. I’m sure he’d seen worse in the war, but this was different.



Friday, December 21, 2018

the last book I ever read (Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, excerpt ten)

from National Book Award Finalist The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai:

“No, Yale, really, why did I pack this? I’m never flossing again.”

“Sure you are.”

“I’m telling you that I have decided not to. Like, right now. I’ve hated it my whole life, and what’s gonna happen to my gums in the next six months?”

“You’ve got much longer than that.”

“You think any dentist is even treating me again? I’ve got no dentist to yell at me! I’m never going in for another cleaning! I could eat s’mores for dinner every night and not brush my teeth.” He dropped the dental floss on Yale’s lap and grabbed his shoulders. “Ten-year-old me would love this.” And then he collapsed in frantic laughter that Yale couldn’t manage to join.



Thursday, December 20, 2018

the last book I ever read (Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, excerpt nine)

from National Book Award Finalist The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai:

Yale kept wishing Julian would leave the apartment, but Julian didn’t want to risk being seen. He wanted to hide here till Sunday, when his flight would leave for Puerto Rico. He had a high school friend out there to stay with—and after that he wasn’t sure, except that it would be somewhere warm. “Maybe Jamaica,’ he said, and Yale said, “Julian, they kill people like us in Jamaica.” And Julian, disturbingly, had shrugged.

Julian spent most of his time locked in the master bedroom, or else working out in the Marina City gym in exercise clothes he’d dug out of Allen Sharp’s dresser. As far as Yale could tell, he was staying clean—but then he didn’t know what went on during the day. At 6:30 each evening, Julian would appear in the living room to turn on Wheel of Fortune, which Yale wojndered if he even enjoyed; he never made any effort to guess the answer. When the winner went shopping in the little showcase after each round, Julian would wonder aloud if the person would choose the Dalmatian statue. That was the extent of his engagement.



Wednesday, December 19, 2018

the last book I ever read (Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, excerpt eight)

from National Book Award Finalist The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai:

As the group tunred toward the door, Yale saw another guy—no one he recognized, at least not from this distance—whisper something into Charlie’s ear, then turn back and look straight at Yale. But Charlie never turned.

Yale’s feet stuck to the ground quite a while. The emotions he’d have felt if this had happened yesterday were mitigated by the fact that he wasn’t infected. It hit him now that he’d outlive Charlie, that he’d be the one looking back on this in fifty years, telling Charlie’s story to someone just as Nora had told Ranko’s to him. With less longing, granted. He couldn’t imagine he’d see this as the great lost romance of his life. He wanted to be invisible so he could follow Charlie into the bar, see if he was drowning himself in beer. Instead he walked home, straight into the wind, and by the time he got there his skin was numb.



Tuesday, December 18, 2018

the last book I ever read (Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, excerpt seven)

from National Book Award Finalist The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai:

Arnaud said, “Ah, okay, hello! Yes! Your phone was dead all day! But I have double good news. She’s ready to meet with you.”

“She’s—what? Who, Claire?”

“Ha. I’m good, right? Fast. She’s here in the city. Well, she lives in Saint-Denis, not a very nice suburb. But she works at a bar-tabac in the eighteenth.”

Fiona found herself leaning against the wall.



Monday, December 17, 2018

the last book I ever read (Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, excerpt six)

from National Book Award Finalist The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai:

The next day, Saturday, Yale went to the movies. He saw Spies Like Us and Out of Africa, but they weren’t as distracting as he’d hoped. He was more absorbed with the people around him, the couples and teenagers and solo film buffs having perfectly normal days himself. It seemed such an alien concept now, to have a normal day. To walk around oblivious, just participating in the world. It seemed unreasonable for anyone to be allowed a normal day.



Sunday, December 16, 2018

the last book I ever read (Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, excerpt five)

from National Book Award Finalist The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai:

Yale nearly forgot to go into work the next day. He’d somehow believed that it was Saturday, that after he went to the grocery store and the GNC for Terrence, after he packed up and tiptoed out of the apartment, all he had on his agenda was finding a place to stay tonight, maybe buying a clean shirt. But at ten o’clock, walking down Halsted with a headache, he saw a guy in a necktie and realized it was Friday.



Saturday, December 15, 2018

the last book I ever read (Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, excerpt four)

from National Book Award Finalist The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai:

He nodded, pulled a slim laptop from the bag at his feet and, in one fluid motion, opened it and clicked to start the video. That a French cafĂ© would have Wi-Fi seemed wrong. In her mind, Paris was always 1920. It was always Aunt Nora’s Paris, all tragic love and tubercular artists.



Friday, December 14, 2018

the last book I ever read (Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, excerpt three)

from National Book Award Finalist The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai:

Yale was able to nod honestly. He did know a lot more about art than the average money guy, a huge asset. He had a joke now, a practiced line, about how he could have told his dad either that he was gay or that he was majoring in art, and he’d picked gay because it seemed like less trouble. In reality, during the whole ride home for sophomore winter break, Yale had silently rehearsed the news that he was switching from finance to art history—and then that night, his boyfriend had called and mistaken Yale’s father’s voice for Yale’s (“I miss you, baby,” he’s said, and Yale’s father had said, “How’s that? and Marc, as was his wont, had elaborated), and so the rest of vacation had been devoted to that bombshell, to their mutual avoidance, their silent eating of leftover spaghetti. Yale had planned to tell his father about the professor he could do an independent study with next fall—about how he wasn’t in love the same way with finance, about how with this degree, he could teach or write books or restore paintings or even work at an auction house. He’d planned to explain that it was Caravaggio’s Saint Jerome that had sent vibrations down his arms, made the rest of the world fall away—Caravaggio’s light, oddly, and not his famous shadows. But Marc’s call ruined it; Yale would have been too humiliated to say that all now. Not just gay, but a gay art major. He went back to school in January and lied to his adviser, told her he’d had a change of heart. But between finance classes, he audited course after course, sitting in the backs of lecture halls illuminated only by slides of Manet or Goya or Joaquin Sorolla.



Thursday, December 13, 2018

the last book I ever read (Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, excerpt two)

from National Book Award Finalist The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai:

He walked through every room on the ground floor, opening every door—pantry, coat closet, vacuum closet—until he was greeted with a wall of cold air and descending cement steps. He found the light switch and made his way down. Laundry machines, boxes, two rusty bikes.

He climbed back up and then all the way to the third floor—a study, a little weight room, some storage—and then down to the second again and opened everything. Ornate mahogany bureaus, canopy beds. A master bedroom, all white and green. If this had been the wife’s work, it wasn’t so bad. A Diane Arbus print on the wall, the one of the boy with the hand grenade.



Wednesday, December 12, 2018

the last book I ever read (Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers, excerpt one)

from National Book Award Finalist The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai:

Fiona had wanted to trick her parents, to exchange Nico’s ashes with fireplace ones and give the real ones to Terrence. It was hard to tell if she was serious. But Terrence wasn’t getting any ashes, and he wasn’t getting anything else either, besides Nico’s cat, which he’d taken when Nico first went into the hospital. The family had made it clear that when they began dismantling Nico’s apartment tomorrow, Terrence would be excluded. Nico had left no will. His illness had been sudden, immediately debilitating—first a few days of what had seemed like just shingles, but then, a month later, moon-high fevers and dementia.



Tuesday, December 11, 2018

the last book I ever read (Domenico Starnone's Trick, excerpt seven)

from Trick by Domenico Starnone (Translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri):

The child studied me attentively.

--Are you sick?

--A little, I’m old. The cold and the rain can make me sick.

--And die?

--Yes.

--When will you die?

--Soon.

--My dad says when mean people die you don’t have to be sorry.

--I’m not mean, I’m distracted.

--Even though you’re distracted I’ll cry when you die.

--No, your dad said you don’t need to feel sorry.

--I’ll still cry.



Monday, December 10, 2018

the last book I ever read (Domenico Starnone's Trick, excerpt six)

from Trick by Domenico Starnone (Translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri):

I closed my eyes, I opened them again. The lard was still there, thick with tiny living faces, overwhelming me with nausea. Aghast, I tried to get rid of the hallucination with other images, but I only managed to replace it with one that seemed immediately more threatening. I saw the main door that Mario would have to run to if one of the tenants from the first floor were to ring the bell. The vision was hyperrealistic, I pictured the brown sections of the door, the dark iron of the armor plating, the handle, the knob of the bolt. And I realized that even if the whole family had come: father, mother, Attilio, his brothers; even if they rang the bell with furious persistence; even if I were able to communicate with Mario and send him to the door, the child would never be capable of opening it, because I myself had closed up from the inside, to keep him from going back down to his friend’s place. Mario could only reach the brass knob of the bolt by climbing a ladder. But he’d never be able to carry it out of the closet, open it, set it down properly. And even if he were able to, what good would it do? The child’s hands wouldn’t be strong enough to make the two turns of the knob necessary to open up.

An endless moment passed. I’m worn out, I thought, I’m cold, it’s about to rain, I don’t want to die on the little balcony that I hate, it’s time to break something. And since I could think of no reason not to, I shifted the bucket to my right hand and struck the glass with whatever strength I had left. I expected the door to be reduced to a thousand shards, I tried to keep my distance so I wouldn’t get hurt. But the bucket sounded like a rubber ball against an obstacle and bounced back without damaging anything. I lost my wits and started to strike doggedly, one strike after the next, accompanied by shouts that seemed to rend my throat. Since this had no effect on the glass, I stopped, worn out completely. My wrist hurt and I rubbed it. Nonetheless I was about to proceed to kicks, but I remembered just in time that I was wearing slippers. I would have broken my bones while doing no damage to the glass door. I gave up.



Sunday, December 9, 2018

the last book I ever read (Domenico Starnone's Trick, excerpt five)

from Trick by Domenico Starnone (Translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri):

What stupid lack of foresight, I only cared about the inessential. I was still crouched against the glass, I was afraid even to stand. I was like those people who hate flying and spend the whole time never going to the bathroom, never even crossing their legs, terrified that if they simply leave their spot the plane will tilt, wobble, flip over, and plummet to a crash. On the other hand I had to come up with something, shout, seek—let’s see—to attract the attention of neighbors, of passersby. But how? I was on the sixth floor, peripheral to all that was happening on the street, overwhelmed by the noise. Never mind the fact that, if no one noticed the screaming voices from the cartoons, who would register my own cries, choked by the cold? I sighed, I was cooking up excuses and I knew it. What really prevented me from waving my arms and calling out for help was shame. I’d wanted to be more than the place I’d grown up in, I’d sought out the world’s approval. And now that I was at the end of my life and taking stock of it, I couldn’t bear looking like a hysterical little man who screamed for help from the balcony of the old house in which he’d been a young boy, the one he’d fled from, full of ambition. I was ashamed of being locked outside, I was ashamed that I hadn’t known how to avoid it, I was ashamed that I hadn’t known how to avoid it, I was ashamed to find myself lacking the controlled haughtiness that had always prevented me from asking anyone for help, I was ashamed of being an old man imprisoned by a child.



Saturday, December 8, 2018

the last book I ever read (Domenico Starnone's Trick, excerpt four)

from Trick by Domenico Starnone (Translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri):

I was sleepy, without even the slightest energy to work. I made sure I was the only possible ghost wandering through the house, that there were no thieves motivated by poverty, or murderous thugs from the camorra. I shut off the gas, I secured the dead bolt, two turns. I have to keep it shut all day tomorrow, I told myself, the knob is high up and even if he got up on a chair, Mario, a miniature homo faber, could reach it with his hands, open up, and go off to his pretend friend on the first floor. I backtracked, turning off one light after another behind me. As I finally got into bed, careful not to trip over any toys, I thought I could relax. All the ghosts were in the old house of my adolescence. That house—now as I was drifting off I realized it—formed a big frame around the one Mario and I were in. I saw then and I would draw them, soon, but from a space where I felt safe.



Friday, December 7, 2018

the last book I ever read (Domenico Starnone's Trick, excerpt three)

from Trick by Domenico Starnone (Translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri):

I was forced into playing both ladder and horse. The first made me yawn, constantly. It consisted of pulling the stepladder out of the closet, opening it and making sure it was sturdy, climbing to the top, and then climbing down again. At first he proceeded rung by rung and I held him from behind so that he wouldn’t fall, something that drove him crazy since, in his opinion, there was no reason for me to spot him. Then, by means of cautious but continuous protests, he convinced me to let him climb while I stayed at the bottom of the ladder and held him by the arm. In the end he rebelled outright:

--I know how to climb by myself, don’t hold me.

--And if you fall?

--I won’t.

--But if you do, I’ll leave you to cry on the floor.

--Okay.

--And let this be clear: You climb three times, that’s it.

--No, thirty.

--How much is thirty, in your opinion?

--A lot.



Thursday, December 6, 2018

the last book I ever read (Domenico Starnone's Trick, excerpt two)

from Trick by Domenico Starnone (Translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri):

Mario must have thought that the time for high jinks had now begun. Actually I’d simply meant to throw him a bone and then get back to work. We ate Sally’s food, which was delicious, and already, as we ate, I tried to capture one of the images that had come to me. I brought a morsel to my mouth with one hand and I quickly sketched small dense figures with the other, though I had to admit they weren’t turning out very well. The child’s fault: He never quit, he suggested, endlessly, that we play games after lunch that were, according to him, incredibly entertaining. In the end I gave in. Let’s cleam up and then we’ll do something fun, but just for a while, you know that Grandpa’s busy.



Wednesday, December 5, 2018

the last book I ever read (Domenico Starnone's Trick, excerpt one)

from Trick by Domenico Starnone (Translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri):

That evening it finally clicked that the conference in Cagliari was, above all, a prime opportunity for Betta and Saverio to evade the eyes and ears of their child and fight hard. If, in the course of the afternoon, they only rarely spoke to each other, with perfunctory sentences, at dinner they didn’t even bother with those. Instead they talked to Mario and to me, so that the boy would know all my exploits and I’d know his. They both carried on in childish voices and almost always started the conversation with you know that Grandpa or show Grandpa how you. As a result, Mario had to learn that I’d won many prizes, that I was more famous than Picasso, that important people displayed my work in their homes; and I had to learn that Mario knew how to answer the phone politely, write his name, use the remote control, cut his meat with a real knife, and eat what was on his plate without throwing a tantrum.

It was an interminable evening. The whole while the child never took his eyes off me, as if fearing I would disappear, he wanted to memorize me. When I showed him some dumb old tricks that I’d used to entertain Betta when she was little—like pretending that my thumb, clenched between two fingers, was a piece of his nose that I’d snatched away—he hinted at half indulgent little smiles, half amused, striking the air with his hand as if to punish me for such foolishness. When it was time to go to bed, he tried to say: I’ll go when Grandpa goes. But both parents stepped in, almost in unison, both suddenly strict. His mother exclaimed: You go to bed with Mommy tells you to go to bed, and his father said: It’s time to sleep, indicating the clock on the wall as if his son already knew how to tell time. Mario put up a little resistance then, but all he managed was to make sure I watched how he got undressed without help, and how, still without help, he put on his pajamas, and how he squeezed the toothpaste neatly onto his toothbrush, and how he knew how to brush his teeth, ceaselessly.



Tuesday, December 4, 2018

the last book I ever read (Phone Booth (Object Lessons), excerpt nine)

from Phone Booth (Object Lessons) by Ariana Kelly:

Outside of the church, various species of confession occur in therapy, autobiography, and in conversation, but it remains, in the words of Foucault, “a ritual that unfolds within a power relationship, for one does not confess without the presence (or virtual presence) of a partner who is not simply the interlocutor but the authority who requires the confession, prescribes and appreciates it, and intervenes in order to judge, punish, forgive, console, and reconcile. . . . For me, confession of a kind occurred in a dirty phone booth in New Haven, a city I had not found to be a haven at all. The phone booth preserved the anonymity of my disclosures, even when I was speaking to the people who knew me best. The invisibility, however nominal, is what made the admissions possible. The space simultaneously consecrated the exchange and maintained my distance from everything that had driven me to it: opportunities lost, failures sustained—the accumulation of the person I had somehow come to be.



Monday, December 3, 2018

the last book I ever read (Phone Booth (Object Lessons), excerpt eight)

from Phone Booth (Object Lessons) by Ariana Kelly:

In July of 1999, the Holy Spirit directed Rick Carr, a fifty-one-year-old Texan, to travel a few hundred miles from his home to answer the calls made to a phone booth in the middle of this desert. Located near the California-Nevada border at the intersection of two dirt roads, seventy-five miles southwest of Vegas, the phone booth shared property with desert tortoises, saguaro cactii, and sagebrush. It is a landscape of asceticism and religious vision, at whose edges the American military hovers—there are seventeen United States military sites scattered throughout the Mojave, one of which is the largest Marine Corps bases in the world.

Carr did not take this decree lightly: he camped beside the booth on the desert plays in scorching heat for thirty-two days. During that time he answered over five hundred calls, many of which came from someone named Sergeant Zeno, who said he was phoning from the Pentagon. What was there, in the middle of the Mojave, was a ghost of what had been there: a phone booth positioned along phone lines stretching from central Washington to Southern California that had been installed during the Second World War and would, the government and telephone companies believed, be immune to a potential attack from the Japanese.The phone booth was installed at the civilian request of Emerson Ray, on behalf of the local volcanic cinder miners who would be well served by having access to a public phone. Initially a hand-cranked magneto, it eventually became a coin-operated pay phone, first equipped with a rotary dial, then a touchstone.



Sunday, December 2, 2018

the last book I ever read (Phone Booth (Object Lessons), excerpt seven)

from Phone Booth (Object Lessons) by Ariana Kelly:

The ghost of this relationship remains in how pay phones often still work in situations when cell phones go dead. On the morning of September 11, for example, most of New York City was a cellular dead zone, but landlines still worked. Ironically, after September 11, pay phones with booths were often targeted for removal—as in the bank of sixteen phone booths in the Western Union Building at 60 Hudson Street. A “nerve center for several telecom companies,” the building became a potential terrorist threat, and while the phone booths had once offered valuable privacy and insulation, they now offered, in the public imagination at least, a perfect place for a terrorist to hide a bomb. A security guard needed to be dispatched every time someone needed to make a telephone call, which quickly resulted in the phones becoming off-limits for public use.



Saturday, December 1, 2018

the last book I ever read (Phone Booth (Object Lessons), excerpt six)

from Phone Booth (Object Lessons) by Ariana Kelly:

Phone booths are good places for nervous breakdowns. Charade was released in 1963, the same year as Hitchcock’s The Birds. When the deadly birds resume their attack on Bodega Bay, Melanie Daniels, played by Tippi Hedren, leaves the diner from which she had been watching the maelstrom and runs outside to a phone booth. From a viewer’s perspective her decision is inexplicable—there is a working phone in the diner—but Hitchcock’s reason is clear. The scholar David Trotter explicates Hitchcock’s choice quite succinctly when he writes, “What he gets from Melanie’s mistake is an image of isolation and exposure, as she twists and turns in torment in her transparent cubicle, and the glass shatters.” What drives Melanie into the telephone booth, and what cannot get her out, is a more acute threat than the birds.