Monday, October 11, 2010

From a Novel-in-Progress

I've been working hard on a new novel, and also on my "Your First Page" blog, and hence I have been neglectful of this blog. When that will change I don't know, but here at least I can offer my few intrepid followers a sample of my work-in-progress, from a novel I'm calling HATTERTOWN (the capital letters are important: they are meant to mimic the names of the towns extinct hat factories as they appear in block letters down the shafts of the equally extinct smokestacks that shoot up from the landscape like ruddy brick fingers.

The sample paragraph is from a scene fairly early in the book in which the narrator imagined his mother's reasons and regrets with respect to marrying his stepfather, the owner and operator of the town's last dying retail hat store. You'll read it and tell me if you think it's any good.
"From where I half-crouched behind the beaded curtain I couldn’t see my mother, but I could picture her lying there, spread out on the parlor sofa, her long former dancer’s legs hidden under a plaid throw, cigarette in one hand, sherry glass in the other, for to go with her smoking she had taken up this other habit, a glass of creamy sherry every evening before bed—and sometimes, lately, more than one. She drank, I suppose, for the same reason she’d started smoking again, to take the edge off her disappointment, the disappointment of a woman who, having married a second time not out of love but for money, discovers that in fact she has done so for neither. Had my mother, when she married him, the vaguest inkling that Walter J. Waple was in financial straights? Certainly not. Had she had any such inkling would she have married him? Again, no. But she’d had no such inkling. About Walter J. Waple she had known very little, as a matter of fact. She knew only that he was a widower who lived in a grand stone house on Crown Heights Boulevard with a wraparound porch and stained glass windows and a turret with a witch’s hat roof and a circular driveway edged with day lilies—or were they daffodils? He had a retarded son, poor man, and perhaps for this reason he was alone, though it seemed not a very good reason, not to my mother. He owned the town’s only retail hat store, and so he must have been rich; at any rate, he was not poor, and he did not work in a hat factory. He did not smell of fusty damp wool and harsh chemicals and sweat, but of sweet pipe tobacco and cologne. His fingernails were polished and trimmed square with no a trace of factory grime under them. He didn’t swill bourbon or try to drown or disfigure his children. He was courteous and well mannered and never once presented himself to her without a bouquet of roses. Perhaps he was not rich. Perhaps he was not worth a fortune but only earned a considerable income. Still, it would be enough. With said considerable income he would buy her gowns and in his shiny blue Buick would take her out to dine (not to eat, mind you, but to dine) at gentile New England establishments with names like The Cobbs Mill Inn, The Wild Turkey, The Old Oak, The Spinning Wheel, or to that Swedish place on the lake, what was it called, the Viking’s Table, the one with the smorgasbord, where the chef always came out to greet the patrons in his puffy hat. He’d order a martini, extra dry with a droll olive, and she a Brandy Alexander. At the long banquet table buckling under steaming vats of half-drowned meatballs, golden one-eyed fish, gleaming amber turkeys, diamond-scored, clove-studded hams, and pantied racks of lamb, Mr. and Mrs. Walter J. Waple would fill their plates and life would be good."

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