Lately I’ve been partial to American realism, specifically Richard Yates, John Cheever and John Updike. I don’t have any first editions from this gang, but different editions of their paperbacks. I keep the Rabbit trilogy handy, as it really keeps my creative juices flowing while writing my own book. In the picture I have here, the four books are watched over by a shadowy Paul Auster. My collection is my own, sort of unique, based in nothing more than my tastes, which I think is how all collections should be.
The story was about a girl not much older than I was, traveling to a big city by train. A man—a priest; fat; ugly—sits down next to her and falls asleep. Accidentally, he lets his hand brush against her thigh. She lets it happen. Even once she realizes he isn’t, in fact, asleep, she doesn’t put a stop to it. I blushed furiously and kept reading, hunched over in the chair, hiding the cover as if it were something dirty—and it was dirty, profoundly and interestingly dirty in a way that, no exaggeration, changed my life.
Just when you think a thread of this story is complete, you turn the page and discover another angle. By the time we get to Hollywood with Anne, where the book hits it stride, I began comparing this novel to the brilliant Eat the Document. When I finished that book, I was begging for another hundred pages. With Inside, and Anne, I would have gone on to War & Peace lengths just to see how Anne turned nothing into something.
The book that never leaves my side, Inside by Alix Ohlin, on sale June. This novel is so good, hard to ignore, searing, funny, impressively slick, that I can’t believe I’ve never read her books. If you poke around the blog you will see my reviews of her collection, Signs and Wonders, which goes on sale at the same time as Inside. Ms. Ohlin will also be doing a little blog work, keep your eyes peeled.
They have taken Alan to Stephanie’s place, as Tom describes how he got to this part of the world. We switch back and forth momentarily between what Tom understands and what he is a witness to. Alan is killing himself one bender at a time. But neither drugs or booze will do the job right.
She tells me that they are both stuck in this college town, teaching tidy little classes meant for people with no real goal above teaching. They want a divorce she tells me, and I wonder aloud, (weirdly I’m not out of breath), why? They’re cool with it she says, as we jog in place at a traffic light. It turns green, we take off again, and she keeps telling me more about Kathleen.