Wednesday, September 1, 2010

For Jessica's Birthday

A couple years ago, in Franny & Zooey, I read Buddy Glass's description of his brother, Zooey, and it made me think of my little sister. I reproduce it here for her birthday, along with an excerpt from my novel in which I try to describe the character that's based on her.

From Franny & Zooey:

"From the rear--particularly where his vertebrae were visible--he might almost have passed for one of those needy metropolitan children who are sent out every summer to endowed camps to be fattened and sunned. Close up, either full-face or in profile, he was surpassingly handsome, even spectacularly so. His eldest sister (who modestly prefers to be identified here as a Tuckahoe homemaker) has asked me to describe him as looking like "the blue-eyed Jewish-Irish Mohican scout who died in your arms at the roulette table at Monte Carlo." A more general and surely less parochial view was that his face had been just barely saved from too-handsomeness, not to say gorgeousness, by virtue of one ear's protruding slightly more than the other. I myself hold a very different opinion from either of these. I submit that Zooey's face was close to being a wholly beautiful face. As such, it was of course vulnerable to the same variety of glibly undaunted and usually specious evaluations that any legitimate art object is. I think it just remains to be said that any one of a hundred everyday menaces--a car accident, a head cold, a lie before breakfast--could have disfigured or coarsened his bounteous good looks in a day or a second. But what was undiminishable, and, as already so flatly suggested, a joy of a kind forever, was an authentic esprit superimposed over his entire face--especially at the eyes, where it was often as arresting as a Harlequin mask, and, on occasion, much more confounding."

From Mary Lord French Fry:

Chapter Four

"steps out the front door like a ghost into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white" --Counting Crows

            She met her sister Beatrix outside The Idle Hour Bar, two blocks away from Bea’s apartment in Fed Hill. As soon as they ducked in and perched on stools inside the tiny, one-roomed bar (its maximum capacity, according to the sign beside the door, was 38), their eyes adjusted to the low bar light. They both observed the newest paintings on the walls—cartoon, acrylic women sporting lips like footballs, plunger nipples, crayfish-shaped vaginas, asses round as honeydews.
            “That’s gross,” Bea said. “For real. Who picks this stuff?”
            “Is that one fisting herself? Ew. And ouch.”
            “Just look away.” Bea swiveled to the bar and lit a cigarette. “There’s no escape. They’re still behind us in the mirror. Fuck. I think we have to leave.”
            But Mary stared, instead, at Bea—a perfect antidote to all the caricatures of women on the walls.
            Bea’s skin was putty-colored—cheeks and shoulders, arms and neck of unfired clay. Her white smile welcomed like the pages of an unread book. There’ve been debates about the color of her eyes because they changed as often as the sky. She was beautiful enough to know but not so beautiful she didn’t forget about it most the time.
            “I see you guys have noticed the new show,”  the owner, Dario, probably high, remarked as he approached them. “Drinks?” he asked.
            “We might be getting out of here,” said Bea who glanced disdainfully around the room.
            “Because of them? C’mon. They’re great.” He pushed against the bar and rocked back on his heels then leaned in close as if about to make a statement so profound it’d change their lives. “Get this, they’re each a portrait of an ex-girlfriend.” He raised his eyebrows, nodded towards the walls. “Before the opening, I talked to Gil, the artist who created these. He told me they would all be at the show. So, as they filtered in, I recognized each girl.”
            “But how? Their faces look the same.”
            “I guess that’s not what I was looking at.” His gaze lit on the one with plunger tits. “Just stay. One drink at least. You never know, you might find something good in them. One drink. On me. Champagne?”
             The girls exchanged a glance.
            “I can’t turn down free champagne,” Bea said.

No comments:

Post a Comment