Wednesday, June 5, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham, excerpt three)

from The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham:

Clarissa crosses Houston Street and thinks she might pick up a little something for Evan, to acknowledge his tentatively returning health. Not flowers; if flowers are subtly wrong for the deceased they’re disastrous for the ill. But what? The shops of SoHo are full of party dresses and jewelry and Biedermeier; nothing to take to an imperious, clever young man who might or might not, with the help of a battery of drugs, lives out his normal span. What does anyone want? Clarissa passes a shop and thinks of buying a dress for Julia, she’d look stunning in that little black one with the Anna Magnani straps, but Julia doesn’t wear dresses, she insists on spending her youth, the brief period in which one can wear anything at all, stomping around in men’s undershirts and leather lace-ups the size of cinder blocks. (Why does her daughter tell her so little? What happened to the ring Clarissa gave her for her eighteenth birthday?) Here’s that good little bookstore on Spring Street. Maybe Evan would like a book. Displayed in the window is one (only one!) of Clarissa’s, the English one (criminal, how she’d had to battle for a printing of ten thousand copies and, worse, how it looks as if they’ll be lucky to sell five), alongside the South American family saga she lost to a bigger house, which will clearly fail to earn out because, for mysterious reasons, it is respected but not loved. There is the new biography of Robert Mapplethorpe, the poems of Louise Gl├╝ck, but nothing seems right. They are all, at once, too general and too specific. You want to give him the book of his own life, the book that will locate him, parent him, arm him for the changes. You can’t show up with celebrity gossip, can you? You can’t bring the story of an embittered English novelist or the fates of seven sisters in Chile, however beautifully written, and Evan is about as likely to read poetry as he is to take up painting on china plates.

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