Friday, October 20, 2023

the last book I ever read (Onlookers: Stories by Ann Beattie, excerpt two)

from Onlookers: Stories by Ann Beattie:

Bronwyn thought nothing would alert anyone. That they didn’t want to be alerted. “Paul Revere has been replaced by misinformation shouted shrilly on Facebook,” Bronwyn said. Ginny was as taken aback as everyone else, though she admired how forceful the woman was. Bronwyn insisted there were more Trump sympathizers than anyone realized, and that worse was sure to happen next time.

“Charlottesville’s always congratulating itself,” she said, “and if it can’t do that, its default position is to be noble and brave, like the whole incident was out of a Hemingway novel, the running of the bulls in Pamplona—except that no red flag was being waved, only the flag of the Confederacy, and it was a young woman who’d gotten killed, not a tortured animal. And after the chaos in Lee Park everyone went away, commended by the president of the United States. Read James Baldwin,” Bronwyn had said. “The Fire Next Time.”

After one such evening, Ginny asked Robbie (he again in the Barbour jacket he preferred to his robe; she in his fleece jacket, pulled on because it was the nearest warm garment) if he thought that once summer came, more people would want to socialize the way they had in the past, or if they’d still be too anxious, even with the vaccine, to attend an outdoor concert or go see a movie. He smiled and asked if she was contemplating making her own “great escape,” and asked how his son really seemed to her, how she was doing herself, because he was quite aware, living in such a literary town, of the writer’s struggle.

“One midnight sake doth not a drunken Faulkner make,” she’d replied.

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