“Tessa? You mad at
me?” Jude reached for her friend, who neatly avoided her touch. “I hate
Hartford.” She picked distractedly at some fresh eruption on her face.
“Cut it out, man!”
Tessa snapped, immediately regretting her sharp retort. “Sorry,” she mumbled.
Jude, rattled, folded
her hands onto her lap. “S’okay.”
“What do you think?”
Tessa shot back. “Hartford’s the last place on earth I want to be. I hate Connecticut.”
“Sorry, sorry,” Jude
moaned. “You’re never bored. Why would—?”
Tessa shot back, “It’s
not my friggin’ fault you’re bored!”
Stricken, Jude stared
down at her mannish hands, willing them to reveal the reason for her friend’s
Tessa shrugged off
Jude’s dismay. Only slightly apologetic, she recalled their first adventure.
“God, remember that friggin’ dog in New Britain? Oh man, you were freaked out!”
was friggin’ e-e-evil,” Jude drawled,
Short of carfare on a
long holiday weekend in early October, the two high school seniors had made the
nearly nine-mile trek on foot to an art museum in New Britain, the next town
over from Hartford. At Tessa’s instigation, they’d plotted a route, packed a
few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and started out at dawn. Their only
misstep brought them uncomfortably close to a nervy Alsatian pacing his domain,
his matted coat oilier than the floor of the gas station, his bared teeth the
color of old piano keys.
The museum turned out
to be old-fashioned stucco that looked like somebody’s grandmother’s house. It
housed a sizable collection of paintings by artists of the Hudson River School.
“You hated that
stuff,” Jude laughed.
“That stuff” was
nature portrayed as gaudy backdrops, what Tessa called calendar art. Her
preference was for the modern, like Rothko’s dark abstractions that made her
cry, or the art that pissed off her dad and made her laugh, like Andy Warhol’s Mona Lisa. She loved it all, every
radical thumb that flicked at the nose of convention.
Tessa grinned. “It
scored points with Miss Merz, am I right?” She mocked the art teacher’s prim
New England lilt. “Albert Bierstadt was apainter of such grandeur. What divine
brushstrokes….” Tessa twirled an imaginary brush in Jude’s face.
There was that
irrepressible shriek, followed by the spluttered coughing sound Jude made when
she laughed. Jude’s friendship laid bare such ferocious intensity that had
Tessa not been so lonely it would have put her off. Instead, Tessa laughed
along with her friend.
Again, Jude trailed
her fingertips lightly across her face, exploring the scars.
“Don’t do that, okay?
You’re bumming me out.”
Tessa searched for
distraction among the unruly flame-colored daylilies fanning the porch stairs
the girls sat squarely upon. It was still a novelty for Tessa—roomy old houses
and the wicker furniture that creaked with exhaustion. A silent fusillade of
wildflowers spilled across the worn selvage of the unkempt lawn.
Tessa lived with her
father in a small, furnished apartment on Laurel Street, a few blocks from the
high school where she’d spent her senior year.
On the Lower East
Side of Manhattan, where she’d grown up, front porches and backyards were as
scarce as swollen bank accounts. What prevailed in the 1950s were drab
tenements, tough housing projects, Italian pizzerias, Jewish delicatessens,
Ukrainian coffee shops, and bars. There was Tompkins Square Park—a place she’d
avoided at the best of times—despoiled by the career homeless, as her dad
called them, and paper-bag winos. He had equal disdain for the other bums, the
artists and poets—the beatniks—who had put down roots and whom Tessa secretly
admired. “Get a job,” he’d mutter or, “Get a haircut.” There had been talk
about fixing up the park, but the neighborhood families were less bothered by
its derelict band shell. They wanted something done about encroaching crime,
rival teen gangs. They wanted to leave their airless apartments, return to park
benches of a summer evening, and linger among desultory conversations with
their fellow escapees. They wanted their park back.
On any enervating
summer afternoon, Tessa, her skin glazed with sweat, languished on a stoop in
the projects, where she’d lived since birth. She watched through letterbox eyes
as drugs were passed in narrow doorways on Avenue D. Older boys jimmied the
hydrants, drawing sunburnt kids out of nowhere. They fanned out across the
street, braving the icy cold torrent. A dare would prompt one of the braver
among them to bodily redirect the deluge to an open basement window until the
building super rained his fury upon them, scattering them like cockroaches at
first light. Hartford had none of that. Tessa couldn’t get good pizza, not like
in New York, a whole pie for under a buck. For beer, Connecticut had package
stores. A hero back home was a grinder in Hartford.
population at Hartford Public High had taken her by surprise. Arriving on
opening day, she was struck by the scramble of Negro teens discharged from a
convoy of yellow school buses. Her old public high school in Manhattan had been
fully integrated. Back home, some of the students at the High School of Art and
Design—including her best friend, Hugh—had adopted Black as a self-descriptive term. Buses were for public
transportation. Both the financially underendowed and the students who were
better off coalesced from neighborhoods near and far for the purpose of
generating some kind of art. Martin Luther King’s dream was not quite the
reality on Forest Street in Hartford. Apart from Miss Merz’s class,which
suffered from twentieth-century blindness, there was nothing close to that at
Hartford Public High School: no painting, no photography class, no sculpture
studio, no fashion or advertising design. Woodworking was a “boys only” class, relegating
Tessa to home economics, a subject she found laughable.
All expectation of
fitting in was abandoned early on. She’d been thrust into her senior year in a
strange school. Her clothes were wrong. She spoke with a funny accent she
refused to modulate. She unabashedly declared herself an artist. Friendly
overtures to Negro girls in her homeroom were met with wary amusement. The
madras-and-Weejuns crowd gave her wide berth. Asylum Hill seemed a perfect name
for the neighborhood.
A big girl with a
coarse complexion was seated next to her in art history class. The girl cackled
with delight when a flippant comment escaped from Tessa, causing Miss Merz to
pucker with irritation. “Jude, we’ll have none of that,” the teacher warned,
not unkindly. Then, addressing the transplant, “You’ll find there is culture
beyond New York City, Miss Scott.” Tessa’s face had burnt brighter than the
Bierstadt sunset projected onto the pull-down screen at the blackboard. But the
incident brought her the admiration of the few defectors from preppy she’d
She’d left her old
schoolmates and neighborhood pals back in New York. It was also where she had
left her mother.
Tessa was an only
child. Jude never asked, and Tessa never revealed her mother’s violent
outbursts, rages that came from nothing ever being good enough. Her mother had
a flirtatious side that bordered on hysteria. Tessa suspected she had been
unfaithful. There were times when her mother fell into an almost sweet
confusion, as if she didn’t know who or where she was exactly. The three of
them were like strangers thrown together, and for a brief while they steadied
their little boat until the tranquil sea turned savage again. Avoiding the
flare-ups, Tessa sought refuge in her journal, her art, and the many galleries
and museums in the city. Her father put in even longer hours at his antiques
repair shop on First Avenue near the Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge. Sometimes Tessa
would walk the few blocks after school, spending the rest of the day into
evening at her father’s side.
He sometimes talked
about leaving New York. Tessa had assumed he’d meant the three of them.
Finally, in 1963, there was a citywide newspaper strike that lasted one hundred
days. After that, leaving was all he talked about. Tessa imagined it was the
real reason he abandoned his idle business, taking a job with a decorator in
West Hartford. He never talked about his wife. If Tessa asked about her mother,
he’d reply, “You’re better off not knowing.”
All of that was behind
her, allowing a dozy intermission on a muggy afternoon in June, the air so warm
you could hear the trees drone. It was Tessa’s first summer away from New York.
Liberty in a strange city stretched ahead for a few weeks longer, until the
summer job started.
Jude’s life was just
as it had always been. She was living in the house where she’d been born, still
mired in submissiveness on a splintered porch. Her older brother, an abstract
painter and radical by necessity, had left for Canada just before Tessa
arrived, before the draft caught up with him. “An escape artist,” Tessa once
joked, and then took care never to mention him or the Vietnam War again. Jude
had a few friends before Tessa came along, but they fell back as Jude embraced
Tessa. They could not compete with a girl from New York.
The houses on Jude’s
street wore their benign neglect without rancor. Only its inhabitants
differentiated Jude’s home from the neighbors’. Her family was white. The
neighbors were black, apart from a few elderly Poles and Lithuanians who lived
further from Farmington Avenue. The houses set back from the street shared a
common fall from grace that demanded they respect each other’s privacy. They
did not mix. There was no need.
A command, gruffly
served in Polish, broke their reverie. “English, Mama,” Jude sighed. She took
the straw hat leveraged above her from the thick, purposeful fingers of her
mother. Mrs. Kowalski did not like Tessa, granting her only the thin evidence
of a smile. It did not sit well that Tessa’s mother had stayed behind in New
York. Jude’s Polish family was die-hard Catholic. “She’ll like you once she
gets to know you,” Jude offered. When the girls bent over homework or hauled
oversize sketchbooks to their laps, Jude’s mother appeared, wordlessly shoving
her daughter’s bedroom door open. If Tessa stayed overnight, Mrs. Kowalski was
sullenly even more uncommunicative in the morning. It was disconcerting. Mrs.
Kowalski made Tessa uneasy, though Jude tried to reassure her. It was the
language thing. Summer brought the girls out into the open, out of Jude’s
airless bedroom under the eaves.
From the start, Jude
followed Tessa’s lead, though her ardent nature was bothersome at times. They’d
had other outings, closer to home. Many Saturday afternoons were passed in the
cool marble interior of The Wadsworth Atheneum. It was graveyard quiet there. They
wandered the empty galleries unnoticed, heads close, brooding over their
reflections in a shallow pool under a statue of Venus in an open sunlit court.
They huddled giggling in a dark corner, mimicking the marble statue of a couple
of scowling women. “Let him perish!” they’d squeal, tearing up the staircase
“Caked-on blustery of
Jude often recited
aloud fragments from the poems she wrote but never showed Tessa. She’d nod in
earnest as Tessa excitedly described the meaning of a certain minimalist
artist’s installation—the “approximate invisibility” of the piece—but Tessa
failed at enlightening Jude as to the deeper meaning of Dan Flavin’s fluorescent
tube. Compared to the museums in Manhattan—apart from contemporary bright
spots—Tessa found the Wadsworth antiquated. She missed the welter of emotions
that sprang up when she’d stumbled upon the ordered chaos of a Twombly at the
Modern, both disturbed and aroused by a swan’s ecstasy.
outdoors in Elizabeth Park. Tessa showed Jude how to abstract the landscape
around them. They had explored all three floors of Mark Twain’s pink-and-red
Victorian Gothic mansion that rose above Farmington Avenue. Smaller, but no
less interesting, was the cottage around the corner, which had once belonged to
Harriet Beecher Stowe. Writers Tessa had devoured as a sophomore back home.
“We’re reading it for English this year,” a senior classmate offered. “Uncle
Tom’s Cabinet.” Hartford was a desert she’d not have to endure much longer.
Tessa stabbed a loose
floorboard with her foot. Unthinking, she pouted. “What did you ever do without
Jude, eager for
validation, gushed,as if on cue, “M-m-m, my groovy friend.” She gauged
Tessa’s irritated squint. “I meant groovy in a good way.” And then helplessly
she blurted, “I mean, special. You’re my beautiful, special friend.”
Tessa rolled her
eyes, mitigating discomfort. She took in Jude’s lank, waist-length hair, an
ambivalent dishwater blonde cascade. Jude wore apology like a shroud: the
thickset Polish physique, shoulders like sagging house beams, and a down-turned
mouth that even laughter could not right. Tessa knew—because Jude had told her
often enough—that she despaired of ever having the kind of attention Tessa got.
Jude’s hooded reptilian stare, her complexion unfairly scarred by genetics were
They were as unalike
as Lucille Ball and her television sidekick, Ethel. Tessa knew they made an odd
couple in the school hallways—she with her trim, athletic build, unconventional
dress, and a disposition that drew guys to her like rats to cheese. Tessa’s
female classmates regarded her with suspicion, taking in her blonde ponytail, a
barefaced, flawless complexion, and a laugh that struck like lightning.
Tessa wanted to
scream, “Don’t blame me if I’m pretty. I hate it, hate all the friggin’
attention. I hate every friggin’ minute of it. Guys don’t take me seriously. No
one takes me seriously.”
Instead, she softened
her rebuttal. “You were born here at least. You weren’t dragged kicking and
screaming.” She snatched the straw hat from Jude’s head, spinning it with her
index finger. “You’re really talented, you know, Jude. You get to be treated
like an artist. Everyone drools over your work. Miss Merz thinks you’re a
Jude shrieked, lunging
for her hat. They wrestled like boys, rolling into the wicker chairs, shoving
them aside in their tussle. Jude straddled Tessa, thrusting her meaty hands
against Tessa’s thin shoulders.
“Get off!” Tessa
shouted, grimacing. Red-faced, she rose sharply, clapping her hands to her
thighs. She tugged at her denim cutoffs. “Right. I have an idea.”
“What?” Jude asked.
Tessa grinned. “Trust
me. It’s outta sight.”
They were the first
ones through the entrance to the Wadsworth Museum the following morning.
“Shush,” Tessa whispered. She pushed Jude from
the smaller gallery where the new acquisitions were displayed.
Jude, surprised by
Tessa’s urgency, yelped, “For Pete’s sake, don’t have a cow.”
“Cool it.” Tessa
urged under her breath.
Jude snorted. She drew a lank of hair into her fist. She scowled at the ends
for a moment before tossing it behind her. “What’s this all about?”
Tessa coughed. “Let’s
Jude allowed herself
to be hurried past the tapestries and through the Great Hall.
At some distance from
the museum entrance on Main Street, Tessa breathlessly repeated her idea. “This
will blow your mind,” she said. They would create a painting, frame it, and
hang it in the museum.
right? Ready for anything? Ready to be a little daring?” Tessa urged.
Jude nodded soberly,
still unconvinced. “But we could get in trouble, big trouble. What about the
guards? You gonna hammer a nail—?”
That was going too
far, Tessa had to admit, banging holes in museum walls. But she was running out
of options. Downtown had taken only a few weeks of exploration before she’d
covered all the historical sights. The hoopla surrounding a newly completed
glass building they called “The Boat” seemed overblown considering where she’d
come from. She’d be working downtown soon enough, filing medical records for an
insurance company. Constitution Plaza had a desolate, crypt-like feel away from
Main Street’s older department stores. She’d sauntered around the East Side
neighborhood of her school back home in Manhattan and encountered the likes of
Marilyn Monroe and Suzy Parker in Bloomingdale’s. She’d cut class sometimes to
wander alone in Greenwich Village and check out the troubadours in Washington
Square Park. Downtown Hartford got pretty old, pretty quick.
They planned their
moves carefully. They made many return trips noting the uninterested museum
guards’ whereabouts. Because it was summer, a heavy overcoat would only draw
attention, so they had to devise a way to sneak in a watercolor portrait of a
clown, loosely painted on a thick sheet of Arches that they had gingerly
removed from a 9 x 12 block.
Jude balked at making
it into an abstract. “I’m painting it, let me do it.”
Tessa saw the bigger
picture, leaving it to Jude. Tessa signed it Maurice Rageau. They framed it with the simplest frame they could
find at the art supply store, attaching picture wire to the back. It looked
professional enough. It fitted nicely under an old paint smock Jude would wear
buttoned to the neck. They practiced roping Jude’s waist with a perfect knot
that would loosen with a flick of the wrist. They purchased gummed hangers, testing
them to hold the modest weight of the picture.
The final touch was
the label. Tessa typed it on an old Remington in Jude’s father’s office, in the
pharmacy he managed at the top of the hill where Farmington Avenue veered off
Asylum. Jude’s father was always pleased to see Tessa. Whenever they stopped in
they were treated to hamburgers at the lunch counter, scarfing them down with
cherry cokes. He enjoyed their giggling presence and did not interfere as Tessa
pecked out the words: The Clown, by Maurice Rageau.
On a quiet weekday,
under a dull sky, they set out for the museum. For a brief moment they stood
before the turreted stone castle, reconsidering. Jude’s heartbeat caused her to
“We, we, shoulda done
a dress rehearsal.” She gripped the bulk she was carrying, feeling for the knot
atop her stomach.
Tessa breathed in
deeply, steadying their resolve. “If you snooze you lose, Jude. We can do
Moments later they
flew from the galleries, heading straight for the main entrance. They slowed
past the lone guard who had not seen them arrive. He nodded to the familiar
sight of a couple of teenage girls.
Afterward, they tore
across Bushnell Park, charged with adrenaline. The sight of the palatial sprawl
of the Capitol building stopped them. They were joyous, sweating profusely.
Relief came in a swell of laughter.
“We did it! We
friggin’ did it!” they chorused.
ripped off the ridiculous smock, throwing it to the ground. They punched the
air with a fresh round of laughter. Collapsing onto the grass, they gripped
“Outta sight,” Tessa
wheezed. “Now, aren’t you glad we did it? For real, man.”
Jude turned on her
side and gazed at her friend. “I am,” she said giddily, “I’m glad you’re
my special friend. Love you,” she whispered, “for real.”
“Love ya, too,” Tessa
Jude stretched her
arm, a languid motion that landed her fingers above Tessa’s face. “I mean, I
love you,” she breathed as she trailed her fingers across Tessa’s cheek.
They walked home
without speaking. Jude left her at Laurel Street. Tessa shouted after her,
“Later!” Jude raised her arm in a half-hearted wave, and without turning,
continued along Farmington Avenue.
A week later Tessa
was flipping through her assigned carousel. She pulled cards on file with names
and numbers of those listed as deceased. It was deadly boring, but she’d make a
little money for her return to Manhattan in September. Everything was going as
planned. She’d work in an art gallery on Madison Avenue that sold posters. She
would be little more than a glorified stock girl, but she would attend evening classes
at the Art Students League. She and a former school classmate in Manhattan
planned to move into a basement apartment on Perry Street in Greenwich Village.
She’d be seeing her old friend Hugh soon enough.
When her father
asked, Tessa told him that Jude was getting ready to move to San Francisco,
where she would take classes at the Art Institute.
“We’re both busy, you
know. But we speak on the phone,” she said.
Jude’s father had
told him another story.
Tessa’s dad had
stopped at the lunch counter at the pharmacy for a coffee. “What happened with
you two?” he asked Tessa. “Mr. Kowalski said you don’t come around anymore. He
said Jude is brokenhearted, like you guys had a falling-out or something?”
Tessa felt ashamed and
angry at the same time. “She’s busy,” she said. “We both are.”
In the days after
their escapade, Tessa had planned to call Jude but one thing or another got in
the way. Then she started her summer job. She never told anyone about the
museum caper. Once or twice she thought about walking over there on her lunch
hour to see if the painting was still hanging. She never did. Not because she
thought she might run into Jude. Because she was busy.
In the week before
Tessa was leaving, a letter came for her from Jude. Her father asked about it.
Was Jude already in San Francisco? Yes, Tessa said. But that was untrue. The
letter contained a poem Jude had written. It was typed, Tessa could tell, on
the old typewriter at the pharmacy. Tessa’s hands shook as she read it in the
privacy of her bedroom. It was a bold poem. Tessa was surprised at how good it
was, but it struck her like a knife, tearing at her insides. “Some clowns are
worth tears,” it said. “You get what you ask for.” The letter was signed,
“Love, Jude.” Tessa crumpled the paper tightly, unable to tear it up.
Tessa thought about
packing. She would get what she asked for. She wouldn’t have to think twice.
She would be all right. Freewheelin’ soon, like the song said.
remembered exactly how she’dmet Rodolfo. It was
nearly fifteen years ago, in a part of Manhattan she rarely frequented anymore.
Lana, the decade of the ’70s had been looking for the exit. She had been
recently divorced. Her future was economically unsound, but she had immediately
returned to painting with the renewed passion of a newly single woman who had
learned her lesson. Her friend Manu, a Basque writer, wanted her to meet
Rodolfo Gomariz, an Argentine painter who had invited Manu to his studio.
sweltering morning in August, Lana and Manu stood under a metal canopy at the
far west end of Fourteenth Street near Gansevoort Street. The Meatpacking
District, as it was called, possessed a split personality driven by the time of
day or night. An abandoned elevated railway line near Tenth Avenue added to the
demilitarized feel of the place. Lana suspected the same characters who
frequented the bars and sex clubs were dead asleep in other parts of the city,
or on nearby Christopher Street. Manu would have been shocked to learn the
unmarked doors they had walked past were entrances to places like
The Anvil and The Mineshaft. And probably appalled to discover his friend Lana
had been, on occasion, to some of those clubs with her gay male friends.
friends had introduced her to a nightlife that began after midnight and lasted
until they retired to some greasy spoon, like Hector’s, at daybreak, where she
shared tables with frazzled, foot-sore drag queens staging a last curtain call.
The sight of a bare-chested man’s naked buttocks bulging from leather chaps no
longer surprised her. Once, after having been sneaked into a club dressed as a
boy, she had laughed so hard she nearly gave the game away. The ruse proved
fruitless. Instead of beefy naked men engaged in extraordinary sexual feats
she’d only heard about, she’d seen merely one scrawny fellow in a jock strap
swaying dispassionately on a swing above the bar. After fighting
self-consciousness at her friends’ playful threat of audience participation, an
off night had been just fine with Lana and she’d been secretly relieved. Other
excursions, less charged, had brought her to The Spike for a Mother’s Day
brunch as the guest of an older, leather-clad friend.
August morning Lana was coolly outfitted in a white sleeveless t-shirt under a
pearl-gray, windowpane-check cotton dress from Putumayo. Her long, light-brown
hair was pulled back in a single braid to which she had attached an artificial
lily. She wore simple woven leather huaraches. Her legs and arms were radiantly
tanned. Post-divorce, she wanted to feel feminine again.
a broad-shouldered man in his early seventies. He and twenty-seven-year-old
Lana had developed a robust, if unlikely, friendship that entailed long walks
traversing the city, debating art and politics and life. Manu was enthralled
and had his wife’s blessing because it exercised his old bones. He was a Basque
Separatist, far from his embattled homeland. A full head of winter-white hair
capped raging eyebrows. He preferred always to wear a jacket and tie, even in
the sweat-stained summer months.
studied the scrap of paper in his bear-like hand until
Lana grabbed it from him. She looked up from the scrawled address, beyond a raw
carcass that hung inches from her face. Neither of them mentioned the smell.
She pointed to a red metal door and said, “This
is the place.”
often regaled an international set of urbane dinner guests with tales of bloody
revolt in his country, stepped back gingerly. “Lana, these are dead cows,” he
the back of her hand against a flank, she shoved the carcass aside, dislodging
a few flies. “After me,” she giggled.
Manu telephoned to tell her what a strong impression she had made on Rodolfo.
Manu’s wife, Miriam, joined in on another phone—a habit of theirs—and reported
that Rodolfo had called in high spirits to tell them he was in love. He wanted
to marry Lana! She was taken aback. Not because they hadn’t clicked instantly.
Lana was impressed with his work; sweeping canvases of somber urban abstracts.
Rodolfo was handsome in a way that brought a flush to her cheeks, with an
aristocratic bearing that melded seamlessly with his apparent poverty. He made
her laugh and she was charmed by his attention, his unabashed inquiry into her
own painting. Lana guessed he was a little older than she. But that was in
actual years. In life-lived years he was well beyond her.
sherry and enjoyed a rustic spread of herbed olives, fresh baguette, quince,
and the Manchego cheese that Manu had brought. Music filled the loft. Caetano
Veloso’s seductive voice shamelessly explored her spine and the heat in the
un-air-conditioned loft caressed her. The room smelled of turpentine and oil
paint and Manu’s strong cigarettes. She’d felt light-headed, seduced by it all.
Miriam, that’s impossible. He can’t be in love with me.”
interjected. He was adamant. “Why no, Lana? He’s very handsome. A very good
also persisted. “Lana, he was very taken with you.”
unable to stop herself, blurted, “But he’s gay!”
months after they’d met, Rodolfo hosted a party in his loft for a friend, a
celebration of sorts to which Lana had been invited.
arrived, guests were still sparse. Shyness overtook her and she found a quiet
corner to wait for Manu and his wife. The loft filled quickly and she wondered
if she should circulate, if she had somehow missed her friends’ arrival. A man
of indeterminate age in a rather bizarre getup, even by the standards of the
rest of the party, made his way through the revelers. His rosebud lips puckered
in his face, painted to look like a Kabuki actor. Shellacked hair rose in a
black pompadour high above his whitened forehead. He headed right for her and
spoke softly in a German accent as he offered her his hand, raised as a
champion show dog might lift a paw.
you do?” he whispered. “Can you tell me, vere ist ze bathroom?”
bemused, pointed in a direction and he floated through the crowd. Rodolfo
swooped in. “My friend, Klaus Nomi. The guest of honor,” Rodolfo beamed. “He’s
a jenyoos. We are so excited for heem. He’s singing with Daveed Bowiee—.
thought you said he was a pastry chef?”
“He ees a pastry chef,” Rodolfo laughed, leaving
her to greet a fresh round of guests.
It was a
wild affair—a bombastic mix of personalities and nationalities, genders
specific and not so. Lana watched as Rodolfo, swarmed by a colony of fawning
poseurs, basked in their giddy adoration. The intense level of excitement was
exhilarating. Everyone danced as uninhibitedly as they drank and ate, laughed
and argued. Manu held forth among a clutch of Spaniards in fervent political
discourse under the smokers’ gauzy canopy. Strangers chatted up Lana in Spanish
and French. Some spoke Portuguese. There was no language barrier to
gesticulation and Lana, strangely, felt easily connected. She allowed herself
to be drawn into a graceful tangle of dancers, swaying in a marijuana trance as
if it were second nature.
slipped into the streets with departing guests who tripped carelessly over
uneven cobblestones into a cold blue daybreak. Earlier, Manu had suggested
dropping Lana at her apartment, but Rodolfo drew Lana to him.
good care of her. Don’t you worry, old man.”
high from the music, the wine and the pot, sensed the opening of a new chapter.
She played out a scenario over and over in her sweetly muddled mind. Would she
have sex with him? If he was gay what did it matter? Maybe—surely—he was
stood in the doorway in a brash, newfound place—eager and calculating at the
same time. Rodolfo clasped Lana’s waist affectionately as the acolytes, the
last to leave, exchanged pouty air kisses with him. They minced past Lana,
boldly ignoring her. Later, after he had made them strong coffee and while they
were clearing up, she asked about the young men. “I have a lot of gay friends.
You can tell me….”
witnessed a meteoric eclipse in his eyes, a brief yet overpowering shadow,
dispelled instantly in a flash of white teeth.
slipped a record onto the turntable. “No, La-a-a-na,
for me only women.” He took her hand and dropped a small, ripe plum into her
kind of late in the season for these. Where did you get—?”
lowered his eyelids and stretched his full height above her, covering her hand
with both of his. “I can get anything for you.” A woman sang in Portuguese, her
voice a muscular expression of lament, its meaning Lana could only intuit.
comment was forgotten. Rodolfo won a Guggenheim Fellowship and Lana watched,
fascinated, as his reputation and his circle of friends grew. He prepared
intimate meals when it was just the two of them. Impromptu parties materialized
out of otherwise quiet afternoons. She found her way easily around his kitchen,
listening raptly as he sketched out his future. The one-man shows in SoHo were
“La-a-a-na, I have beeg
ideas.” He ran, then, with artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.
She was not invited along. He still wooed her, but the intensity leveled to an
affectionate joke between them. Yes, of course she would marry him—someday.
Until aids put the fear into those who had the
power to close the bars and bath houses, some of her gay friends still
frequented Badlands and The Mineshaft. Danger went hand in hand with sexual
bondage. But the playground proved intolerable when a murderous drive-by
shooting scattered the men outside The Ramrod.
was at all unsure of Rodolfo, doubt sharpened at parties or at a vernissage for Rodolfo’s latest
exhibition, where he encountered men who were bolder. His disdain for them was
palpable. He kept his eyes averted when introduced, but she caught a flicker of
interest, a covert recognition. Later these men revealed to her that they had
witnessed Rodolfo—or somebody who looked very much like him—engaging in sex
play or cruising the treacherous territory of the piers.
dismissed her encouragement to “come out” as trespassing. “You know them,” she
ventured. Once he became angry with her, she never spoke of it again.
mentioned someone in his crowd, “La-a-a-na,
I am a frahnd to Jean-Michel. What I
can do? Terrible, terrible, the drugs,” she knew what kind of friend he meant.
remarried. Her husband—Ian, an English musician—eagerly embraced New York
nightlife. Many of the clubs she had frequented and grown tired of were now his
venues. She ignored a mercurial relationship with rank caves like cbgb’s, returning to cheer his onstage
place she brought Ian was Petrol. Rodolfo, bored with painting, had flung
himself into an entrepreneurial role, commanding an abandoned corner of Avenue
B on the Lower East Side. With minimal attention to décor he transformed the
formerly defunct gas station into a hip bar and performance space for the
emerging trendsetters from abroad who flocked to New York City, ravenous for a
bite of fertile urban underbelly. Alcohol was served illegally. One responded
to the bartender’s query, “Con gas or
sín gas?” and vodka flowed
surreptitiously into ice-blue drinks.
first encounter with Rodolfo was on a bitterly cold night. While Rodolfo fed a
hunk of discarded timber into a blazing makeshift stove, one of the avant-garde
writers published under Petrol’s imprimatur—a Nuyorican poet—spat out his
poetry as he pelted a worshipful audience with condoms. Ian loved it. He and
Rodolfo got on famously.
moved to Brooklyn. Williamsburg would be, he predicted, the next big thing.
Artists were attracted to the generous space and light, to the sense of
entitled discovery an intrepid newcomer gets when renovated derelict
overshadows entrenched residents. He put his shoulder to the dirtiest
grindstones alongside day laborers. In no time he was a sought-after
contractor. In a factory building he’d renovated at the end of Berry Street, he
carved out a sizeable loft for himself.
had been ardently pursuing the lead singer of a band called Deus Ex Machina. Elvira was a sculpted
Danish beauty, severe if you didn’t know her. Her ermine hair teased into an
operatic frenzy to match her outsized voice. The Goth-driven band behind her
generated a hard-core following. Rodolfo plagued Lana, moaning of his
unrequited love for the singer, who coldly rejected his advances. He dragged
Lana to all of her shows and stared white-hot at Elvira, frothed in billowing
vintage gowns. He laid exotic blooms at her feet during the performance. Lana
cautioned against stalking.
inexplicably, he and the Dane were a couple. He became her Svengali, dismissed
her band, monitored her, and crafted her every move. She would be bigger than
Madonna. Lana, disturbed, had pulled away for a while, but eventually came to
see that sweet-natured Elvira was wholly dependent on Rodolfo, and had entrusted
her fate to him.
wedding took place in the loft on Berry Street, presided over by a bald
Buddhist monk in a saffron robe. Elvira was gowned spectacularly in yards of
antique white satin, her hair embroidered with outlandish silk flowers, while
Rodolfo was outfitted entirely in black. Never one to underestimate an
impression, he wore a morning coat and a wide-brimmed fedora. A silken black
veil hid his face.
couple exchanged plain gold bands, surrounded by collective disbelief. Guests
gave Rodolfo wide berth. A studied friendliness pervaded the surreal atmosphere
of the after party. An Afro-Caribbean band went largely unnoticed until the
guests had downed copious amounts of champagne. Commanding one end of the loft
was the marriage bed, a grand four-poster. It was a gift from the Rivington
Street Welders, the same artists who’d constructed the infamous iron fence
around Petrol. The bed, sprung from a dark fairy tale, was heaped with duvets
covered in lush funereal fabrics—dark plum-colored velvet, embossed black
silk—its four iron tentacles curled against the ceiling.
alone on the bed, Rodolfo motioned for Lana. He took her hand in his and she
was shocked by its coldness. “Tell me you love me,” he whispered.
course, of course,” she said. She and Ian loved both of them.
“No, La-a-a-na, say you love me.”
squeezed his hand, trying to warm it with her own. “I do love you,” she said.
the dark veil from his wide-brimmed black hat, slowly. “Kiss me.” Lana brushed
his damp cheek. “No, on the lips.” He held her face in his hands, her lips
pillowed on his, for a long time.
career demanded all of his attention and Lana saw little of him after the
ceremony. Rumors began to circulate; speculation boiled like an unwatched pot.
He was losing weight or he was bloated. He was madly creative or he was rueful
pressed Elvira, who seemed oblivious to anything but the possibility that
Rodolfo had some unshakable flu.
Ian attended the premiere of Rodolfo’s pet project, meant to be a starring
vehicle for Elvira. An audience of downtown luminaries took in Rodolfo’s dark
tale of battling lovers, role reversal, and a hyper-realistic set design of a
bombed-out urban landscape. Lana found the opera confusing at best and
overwrought at worst. Critics called it ambitious but pronounced that it fell
short. Elvira, they wrote, though obviously talented, seemed out of her depth.
Rodolfo, in black, looked wan and angry. The opera closed after three
less of the couple until Elvira telephoned in a panic. Rodolfo was painting
over his canvases. It was a mess, she cried, bizarre, nightmarish images. And
they were broke. Lana pressed Elvira for more information. Was he ill? How
could they help? They would go right away to Brooklyn. Elvira dissuaded Lana,
instead begging to meet her in the city. Lana was shocked at her appearance,
the careful attention to hair and makeup no longer in evidence. Absent the
garnish, Elvira seemed in a state of torpor. Lana gave her the money, making
her promise to keep in touch.
Ian’s invitation for a night out to cheer them up was readily accepted, but
Elvira pleaded, “Please, nothing fancy, make it early.” In an Indian restaurant
on East Sixth Street that Lana knew well, the three of them chatted
lightheartedly while Rodolfo gazed around the nearly empty dining room. He had
lost weight. His shirt ballooned over his distended belly. Elvira fussed and
spoke softly to him, as if he were a child. Midway through the meal, he rose
from the table and shuffled toward the bathroom. After a while Elvira,
discomfited by his absence, started from the table. Rodolfo appeared clutching
the hem of his shirt. He stepped gingerly as he approached. He was completely
naked from the waist down. Elvira, stricken with anguish, rushed to dress him.
They left their unfinished meal. Lana made apologies along with a generous tip.
Haring was dead. Basquiat was dead. Klaus Nomi had died in the same hospital
where Lana was visiting Rodolfo. She’d lost so many friends to aids. Some, like her friend Brendan,
still made art. Bren, an overtly political conceptual performance artist, was hiv positive. A U.S. embargo on the
drugs for hiv caused him to
consider leaving New York, but a return to Ireland would be too painful. His
lover—Adrian, an Argentine—had a job waiting for him in London. He wanted Bren
to go with him, where he would be better looked after. Adrian had enlightened
Lana as to the shame of gay Latin-American men. At home, even the unmarried
ones avoided the stigma with bisexual relationships. It was why there were so
many of them in New York.
an impoverished British writer with expensive taste, bragged about his sexual
conquests, scoffed at protection, and boasted of hiring rent boys, sometimes
nine or a dozen at a time. Lana found out eventually that he was whoring
himself out. Another friend, a paying customer, had told her. So far, Turner
was untouched by the disease.
now a middle-aged married woman with a punky bleached-blonde haircut who wore
comfortably distressed linen. She’d had to ration her time for painting and go
back to work. She and her husband both had. New York was an expensive city. She
stood quietly in Rodolfo’s hospital room.
no,” he whimpered.
Cook, mute and uncomfortable, regarded Rodolfo’s still handsome face, his
pronounced forehead struck with a single thick eyebrow drawn from a brush
loaded with India ink. A puckish glint had been dimmed for some time, but she
detected sparks again; coal-black irises speckled with gold leaf. His aquiline
nose pinched into an elegant curve. Teeth still white and even, but ill-fitting
in his gaunt face, forced his mouth into a menacing grin. The full beard was
new. His flawless hands danced tenuously across her offering.
chosen with care but now he was displeased. Artfully arranged on the bed table,
nesting in a white plastic bag, was the fruit she had brought him. It was
already into November and late-season plums were hard to come by. His
last-minute request that morning had left Lana barely enough time, but she’d
found the obscenely expensive fruit in a gourmet specialty market on Third
Avenue. Further east, his request would have proved more of a challenge. Second
Avenue boasted mostly restaurants and bars. It was chock-a-block with
multifarious havens for boisterous students, aggressive social climbers, and
bone-weary construction workers—all easily accommodated in their choice of
libation. When she was younger, Lana had foraged for cheap vintage clothing
among the many charity thrift shops on First Avenue. At York Avenue it was
high-end auction houses, the antiseptic grandeur of acclaimed hospitals, like
the one Rodolfo was in, and the leafy, gated enclave called the Rockefeller University,
which gave the neighborhood the air of a separate reality.
“I’ll cut one up for you. Maybe?” She looked
toward the door. “I could get the nurse to—.”
whispered hoarsely. “No plums.”
helpless and gripped the bed railing.
“I want a
banana. La-a-a-na, why didn’t you
bring me a bana-a-a-na?”
pouted. He had often confounded her, genially poked fun at her by exaggerating
her name, and this is what she had always resorted to: curling her lower lip
into a moist rebuttal. It usually made him laugh and softened her vexation with
“You asked for these. You said the kind you
liked. Remember?” Lana moved to the side of the bed. She reached for a smooth
blackish-purple orb. Hesitating, she picked another. After months of ignoring
her calls, he’d reappeared. He didn’t want the plums. She would banish them
from his sight.
his hand on her sleeve. His touch was as light as the leave-taking of faeries.
“No, don’t. They are beautiful,” he rasped. “I want to look.”
Gomariz stared up at her, his eyes dark and forgiving. It had been a while
since she’d seen him, but that was not her choice. He was a painter, impresario,
publisher, contractor; he wore all of those hats easily and well. He had the
Golden Touch. Everyone said so. But to her mind he was a painter above all. He
lay amidst the whiteness of pillows, bed linens, and a thermal blanket. He was
a passive subject in a painting by El Greco: Christ nearly disrobed, clothed
only in a disposable hospital gown. Lana followed the trail of an intravenous
drip. His arms were exposed, furred with the thick, black hair that undid her
A lock of
hair had fallen onto his forehead, a black question mark on a blank slate. Lana
pressed it back and, bewildered by its delicacy, let her thumb linger. At first
sight it looked glossy with health, as seductive as the first time she’d met
him, but stroking it from his face she felt the difference.
going to get you a banana. I’ll be right back.”
gripped her hand fiercely, hurting her.
cried, “I don’t know, what?”
pained expression caused him to loosen his grasp. He coughed and flashed a
familiar wry expression. “La-a-a-na,
where are you going?”
smiled from relief and drew her hand from his. “To find a banana for you,
giggled, nearly as lustily as she remembered when they’d parlayed innuendos
between them. She looked back at him. His eyes were closed. His delicately
sculpted fingers, like translucent porcelain bamboo, rested on his thighs.
hospital corridors were decorated in subdued shades of gray and pink—a
corporate decision to remain neutral on a ward of unjust diseases. Framed art
prints pictured gazelle-necked Native American women, sleek black hair framing
identical expressions, whether hugging clay pots, rolling fry dough, or gazing
into a cloudless lavender sky.
Santa Fe,” thought Lana.
“She know what she know. What I’m gonna do?
She’s not a baby. She wait at the bakery across the street from her school.”
stood patiently at the nurses’ station. The woman on the phone acknowledged her
presence with a raised eyebrow and a finger held momentarily poised in Lana’s
direction. Lana, arms folded, let her hands drop to her hips. Her elbows bent
in readiness, demanding and yet respectful. The woman’s conversation continued.
Lana guessed Jamaican. She made out the tiny cartoon characters printed on the
woman’s scrubs: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck. When had they stopped
wearing white? And those starched white caps?
“She be aw’right. The church is there, like a
block away.” The woman paused before addressing the listener on the other end,
who seemed to have annoyed her. “I’m only leaving my daughter until I can get
her. She have half day. I’ll be off a here soon.”
tilted her head in a can-I-say-something manner. The finger curled, dropped
limply to the desk and fidgeted. “Why you surprised?” There was an irritated
pause. “Those boys killed by they own mama. She some ting to blame it on a
black man. Why you surprised? Shame. Those poor little boys. A shame.”
startled, realized the woman was addressing her. “Oh, sorry I….”
you here to see?”
she was visiting Mister Gomariz in—.
Asian nurse approached Lana and said, “36A. Are you a family member?”
replied that she was a friend. She didn’t think he had any family here. He’d
called her that morning. “I’m a close friend,” she added. Lana started to say
where Rodolfo was from when the nurse
cut her off.
I know. His brother is due to take him home.” She looked at Lana as if
expecting a rebuttal.
all Lana could manage before asking if it was possible to get a banana for him.
“Only,” she added, “I brought fruit, what he asked for, and he doesn’t seem—.”
being fed intravenously. It’s a long flight to Buenos Aires.” The nurse rolled
the pronunciation, and it slid off her tongue as if she were a native, which,
as far as Lana could tell, she was not. “I’ll see what I can dig up.”
asked: “Is there a—?”
fountain? In the visitors’ lounge,” the nurse replied curtly as she hurried
after six that morning she’d known it was Rodolfo, even before she’d heard his
voice: sheer, but not frail. It had been many months since she’d heard from
him. Not for lack of trying on her part. His condition had been revealed in
whispered allusion between friends and inflammable rumor from hangers-on.
had left a message on Lana’s answering machine a few weeks before. A dull
monotone stood in for the singer’s usually dramatic timbre. “I’m leaving New
York. Going back to Denmark. Thanks for everything.” Rodolfo’s close friends
had no idea where he was. The studio was locked up, the telephone disconnected.
Lana had tried to reach Rodolfo and gotten nowhere until the call that morning.
“La-a-a-na, can you bring me a large bag?”
was the first thing
asked where he was, how he was, but he told her only that he needed the bag for
a painting, a gift for his doctor. Rodolfo sounded lucid, but she was confused.
What doctor, she asked. She asked again “Where are you?” And then he begged her
to bring him some fruit, his favorite kind. Lana, exasperated, nearly barked at
him. “You have to tell me where you are if I am to bring you these things.”
empty visitors’ lounge she filled a paper cup with water. Regarding the cup she
decided against it, draining its contents into the grill of the water cooler.
She watched it trickle and then disappear before crushing the cup in her palm.
“I’ll just sit for a minute,” she said under her breath. She sank into a chair.
returned to his room Rodolfo was sitting up, laughing with the same nurse who
had brought him a banana. His cheeks shone with mirth. “La-a-a-na, where were you? I have to make love to Miss Chen
because you deserted me.”
diminutive nurse slapped him gently. “Be good, Mister Rodolfo.”
back, sweetie.” Lana moved to the other side of the bed. “I thought you were
sleeping. What can I do?”
removed the intravenous drip. “He’ll be going home soon. He’s had lots of
vitamins and minerals.” Her small yet tenacious frame righted him into a
standing position. “Walk with him a bit, miss.”
shocked, unprepared for his diminished state. “Are you…is it okay?”
miss, it will be good for him. He has a long flight ahead of him.”
leaned gently on Lana’s arm. There was nothing to him. They walked slowly
through the halls, he sneering at the pictures. “You are a real painter, La-a-a-na.”
laughed. “How would you know? You haven’t seen anything of mine in—.”
he told her. She asked about his paintings. Where were they? Who had them?
dismissed the questions with a wave of his hand. “You are the painter, Lana.”
talked about easy things until he abruptly told her he had stopped taking the azt. It was the drug that was making him
fat, he said and they giggled like schoolchildren. At a bank of elevators,
Rodolfo stopped short, as though he had run out of gas. He told her he was
is not a good place to be sick, Lana. I don’t want to die here.” He pushed the
button for the elevator. Lana hesitated until she saw Miss Chen coming toward
them, waving her on. She stepped into the elevator.
began to close. Rodolfo pushed a button. The doors opened. “I want to look at
smiled. The three other passengers smiled as the doors slid shut again.
sprang open again. “I love you,” he whispered, steadied by the nurse. Lana’s
fellow passengers seemed undisturbed by the scene.
you too,” Lana said, fighting back the tears.
again the doors sprang open. “The plums,” he said, “They hurt my mouth.”
A native New Yorker, I was born on the lower East Side before it was trendy. Way before.
Years ago, when the corporate world of magazine publishing booted me out the door, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and decided after struggling as a painter for most of my adult life that I would struggle as a writer.
The idea for my novel “A Birdhouse In Brooklyn” came from an original idea I had for a screenplay, “The Birdhouse.” While writing that screenplay—a collaborative effort—I felt my story was bigger than a movie and I began in earnest to write it as novel.
The novel is entirely a work of fiction. Names, characters, business organizations, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. The use of names of actual persons, places, and events is incidental to the plot, and is not intended to change the entirely fictional character of the work.
A BIRDHOUSE IN BROOKLYN has been registered with the Writers Guild of America, East #R20993 (June 13, 2006). No part of it may be posted or reprinted without permission from the author, Linda Danz.
All photographs, unless otherwise credited, are mine.
Alea jacta est
Foto: *I.N., Nubes de esta tarde, por el norte, 2012.*
Ya hay una fecha y es inminente. Sólo quedan los últimos preparativos y
concentrarse para que todo ...
5 years ago
Books at my side
The Hidden Life Of Trees: What they feel, how they communicate. By Peter Wohlleben
The Most Dangerous Man In America. Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hund for the Fugitive King of LDS by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis
The reurn Of the Dancing Master by Henning Mankell
Bring Out the Dog. Stories by Will Mackin
Steel Drivin' Man—John Henry—The Untold Story of an American Legend
The Shadow Girls. A novel by Henning Mankell
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
The Secret Life Of Cows by Rosamund Young
Quakeland On the road to America's next devastating earthquake by Kathryn Miles
Arrival. Stories Of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
Kennedy's Brain, by Henning Mankell.
Blue Melody. Tim Buckley Remembered by Lee Underwood
Breath Visible. Stories by Linda Danz
After the Fire. A novel by Henning Mankell
1185 Park Avenue. A memoir by Anne Roiphe
Small Hours. A novel by Jennifer Kitses
Down the Rabbt Hole. Curious adventures and cautionary tales of a former Playboy Bunny by Holly Madison.
Mayhem. A memoir by Sigrid Rausing
Unacknowledged. An exposé of the world's greatest secret by Steven M. Greer, M.D.
The Delicate Prey and other stories by Paul Bowles
St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America's Hippest Street by Ada Calhoun
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
The Men In My Life. A memoir of love and art in 1950s Manhattan by Patricia Bosworth.
Proust. The Search by Benjamin Taylor
Jackson C Frank: The clear hard light of genius. A memoir by Jim Abbott
The Intruder. A crime novel by Hakan Östlundh
Georgia A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe
Eveningland. Stories by Michael Knight
Liars and Saints. A novel by Maile Meloy
Depths, by Henning Mankell
Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler
Dark Age Ahead by Jane Jacobs
Quicksand. What It Means To Be a Human being by Henning Mankell
The Trespasser. A novel by Tana French
Not My Father's Son. A memoir by Alan Cumming
M Train by Patti Smith
Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want it. Stories by Maile Meloy
Tribe. On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
The White Rage. The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson, Ph.D.
H Is For Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
I Married a Communist by Philip Roth
Good-Bye Columbus and Five Short Stories, Letting Go by Philip Roth
The Prague Orgy. By Philip Roth
JFK and the Unspeakable. Why he died and why it matters. By James W. Douglass
Chasing Lost Time. The Life of C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Soldier, spy and translator. By Jean Findlay
Meanwhile On a Roof In Chinatown. Ingrid Rudefors
The Noise Of Time. A novel by Julian Barnes
Haunted. A novel by Chuck Palahniuk
Hangsaman. A novel by Shirley Jackson
Little Night. A novel by Luanne Rice
What Belongs To You. A novel by Garth Greenwell
The Hungry Girls and other stories by Patricia Eakins
The Lemon Orchard. A novel by Luanne Rice
Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien
The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
My Name Is Lucy Barton. Novel by Elizabeth Strout
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
In Another Country. Selected short stories by David Constantine
Brothers. The Hidden History Of the Kennedy Years by David Talbot
Eileen. A novel by Ottessa Moshfegh
A Wailing Of a Town. An oral history of San Pedro Punk and more 1977-1985 by Craig Ibarra
The Devil's Chessboard : Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the rise of America's secret government / David Talbot
In Bed With Gore Vidal by Tim Teeman
Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Palo Alto Stories by James Franco
A Drink Before the War. A novel by Dennis Lehane
Empire Of Self. A Life Of Gore Vidal by Jay Parini.
The Heart Goes Last. A novel by Margaret Atwood
The Hour Of Sunlight. One Palestinian's journey from prisoner to peacemaker, by Sami Al Jundi and Jen marlowe
Beautiful You. A novel by Chuck Palahniuk
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years Of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Wind/Pinball Two Novels by Haruki Murakami
Accidental Genius. How John Cassavetes invented the American independent film, by Marshall Fine
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
Stone Mattress. Nine Wicked Tales by Margaret Atwood
Roseanna, By Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
The Secret Place. A novel by Tara French
John, by Cynthia Lennon
Bird By Bird. Some instructions on writing and life by Anne Lamott
Hard Laughter. A novel by Anne Lamott
The Breaks. A novel by Richard Price.
The Master of Petersburg. A novel by J.M. Coetzee
Lucky Alan and Other Stories by Jonathan Lethem
The Homecoming of Samuel Lake. A novel by Jenny Wingfield
The Wanderers, by Richard Price
Dodger, by Terry Pratchett
The Vanishing Point by Val McDermid
The Weight Of Water. A novel by Anita Shreve
The Skeleton Road. A novel by Val McDermid
The Line Of Beauty. A novel by Alan Hollinghurst
The Mocking bird Next Door. Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills
Rescue. A novel byAnita Shreve
Nora Webster. A novel by Colm Tóibín
The Divorce Party. A novel by Laura Dave
Lucky Us. A novel by Amy Bloom
The Assassination Of Margaret Thatcher. Stories by Hilary Mantel
The Safe Place. A novel by Tana French
After Everything. A novel by Suellen Dainty
Between Friends. Stories by Amos Oz
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
The Childhood Of Jesus. A novel by J.M. Coetzee
Broken Harbor. A novel by Tana French
The Likeness. A novel by Tana French
The Childhood Of Jesus. A novel by J.M. Coetzee
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
The Voice Is All. The Lonely Victory Of Jack Kerouac by Joyce Johnson
The Unwitting. A novel by Ellen Feldman
The Fourth Wall. A novel by Michael Alton Gottlieb
Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami
Martin and John. A novel by Dale Peck
The Secrets Of Mary Bowser. A novel by Lois Leveen
Afterwords. Letters On the Death Of Virginia Woolf. Edited by Sybil Oldfield
Nine Stories. J.D. Salinger
The Southern Woman. Stories by Elizabeth Spencer
Daughter Of the King.Growing Up in Gangland by Sandra Lansky and William Stadiem
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour an Introduction. J.D. Salinger
The Catcher In the Rye. J.D. Salinger
The Sociopath Next Door. Martha Stout
A Cup Of Tea. A novel of 1917 by Amy Ephron
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
The Moon Of Innocence by Uke Jackson
The Holocaust Kid by Sonia Pilcer
J.D. Salinger Life by Kenneth Slawenski
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End Of the World by Haruki Murakami
Lab 257. The disturbing story of the government's Secret Plum Island germ laboratory. By Michael Carroll Christopher
The Man From Beijing. A novel by Henning Mankell
The Wasp Factory. A novel by Iain Banks
The Reluctant Fundamentalist. A novel by Mohsin Hamid
New Ways To Kill Your Mother: Writers and their families by Colm Tóibín
A Visit From the Goon Squad. Novel by Jennifer Egan
We Live In Water. Stories by Jess Walter
The Stand. Complete and uncut edition by Stephen King
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Princess Noire. The tumultuous reign of Nina Simone. By Nadine Cohodas.
Italian Shoes. A novel by Henning Mankell
Blaze. A novel by Richard Bachman aka Stephen King
The Rabbit Factory. A novel by Larry Brown
Gone Girl. A novel by Gillian Flynn
Less Than Angels. A novel by Barbara Pym
Everything You Know by Zoë Heller
End In Tears by Ruth Rendell
What Was She Thinking? (Notes on a scandal) by Zoë Heller
We Are Taking Only What We Need. Stories by Stephanie Powell Watts
The Believers. A novel by Zoë Heller
Excellent Women. A novel by Barbara Pym
The Savage City. Race, Murder, and a Generation On the Edge by T.J. English
New York Stories. Edited by Diana Secker Tesdell
Making Toast.A Family Story by Roger Rosenblatt
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. Stories by Wells Tower
Final Justice. The True Story of the Richest Man Ever Tried For Murder, by Steven Naifeh Smith and Gregory White Smith.
The Innocent Man. Murder and Justice in a Small Town, by John Grisham
Jackson Pollock. An American Saga by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
Seek My Face. A novel by John Updike
Trouble. A novel by Kate Christensen
The Astral. A novel by Kate Christensen
The President. A novel by Georges Simenon.
Tropic Moon. A novel by Georges Simenon
The Widow. A novel by Georges Simenon
The Strangers In the House. A novel by Georges Simenon
Pulse. Stories by Julian Barnes
The Mayor of MacDougal Street. A memoir by Dave Van Ronk with Elijah Wald
The Angry Buddhist. A novel by Seth Greenland
The Furies. A novel by Janet Hobhouse
The Art Of Racing In the Rain. A novel by Garth Stein
The Human Fly and other stories by T.C. Boyle
Monsieur Pain, by Roberto Bolaño
Why Orwell Matters, by Christopher Hitchens
Van Gogh. The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
The Sense Of An Ending. A novel by Julian Barnes
The End Of Normal. A Wife's Anguish, A Widow's New Life. Stephanie Madoff Mack
Red Lights. By George Simenon
Knockemstiff. Stories by Donald Ray Pollock
The Devil All the Time. A novel by Donald Ray Pollock
Down and Out In Paris and London by George Orwell
The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why by Amanda Ripley
Jane Jacobs Urban Visionary by Alice Sparberg Alexiou
This Is Not Your City. Stories by Caitlin Horrocks
A Good Hard Look. A novel by Ann Napolitano
Tell All. By Chuck Palahnluk
The Art Fair. A novel by David Lipsky
Leaving Van Gogh. A novel by Carol Wallace
Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. A road trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky
Apathy For the Devil; a 70s memoir by Nick Kent
Writing Treatments That Sell: How To Create and Market Your Story Ideas to the Motion Picture and TV Industry. By Kenneth Atchity and Ch-Li Wong
Nothing That Meets the Eye. The Uncollected Stories of Patricia Hghsmith
The Price Of Salt. A novel by Patricia Highsmith
The Talented Miss Highsmith. The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar
The Death and Life Of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
Housekeeping. A novel by Marilynne Robinson
The Lost Art Of Reading. Why books matter in a distracted time by David L. Ulin
What I TalkAbout WhenI Talk About Running. A memoir by Haruki Murakami
Auntie Mame. An Irreverent Escapade by Patrick Dennis
The Empty Family. Stories by Colm Tóibín
Strange Fruit. A novel by Lillian Smith
Easy Riders Raging Bulls: How the Sex 'n Drugs 'n Rock n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood by Peter Biskind
Everyman, by Philip Roth
The Humbling by Philip Roth
The Buddha and the Terrorist by Satish Kumar
The Elephant Vanishes. Stories by Haruki Murakami
Over the Rainbow? Hardly. Collected short seizures by Chandler Brossard
Nemesis, by Philip Roth
The Unfinished Novel and Other Stories by Valerie Martin
The Three-Arched Bridge by Ismail Kadare
The Habit Of Being. Letters of Flannery O'Connor
Flannery O'Connor. The Complete Stories
A Recent Martyr. A novel by Valerie Martin
Flannery. A Life of Flannery O'Connor by Brad Giooch
The Confessions Of Edward Day. A novel by Valerie Martin
A Deadly Secret. The Strange Disappearance of Kathie Durst by Matt Birkbeck
The Distinguished Guest. A novel by Sue Miller
Almost There. The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman by Nuala O'Faolain
The Lake Shore Limited. A novel by Sue Miller
Waiting To Die. Poems and Short Stories by Lawrence Ghana Hayes
The Shock Doctrine: The rise of disaster capitalism by Naomi Klein
Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis
How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer
Antwerp. A novel by Robert Bolaño
Watermark. Essays by Joseph Brodsky
Mr. Peanut. A novel by Adam Ross
How Shall I Tell the Dog?: And Other Final Musings by Miles Kington
black swan green. A novel by David Mitchell
The Shallows. What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr
Field Notes On Democracy; Listening To the Grasshoppers. Essays by Arundhati Roy
The Sea. A novel by John Banville
The Visitor. A novel by Maeve Brennan
The Springs Of Affection. Stories of Dublin by Maeve Brennan
The Long-Winded Lady. Notes from the New Yorker by Maeve Brennan.
Green Witch. A novel by Alice Hoffman
Here On Earth. A novel by Alice Hoffman
Fall River Dreams. A Team's quest for glory—a town's search for its soul by Bill Reynolds
War Talk by Arundhati Roy
The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett
When You Ae Engulfed In Flames. By David Sedaris
A Fine & Private Place. By Peter S. Beagle
The Mole People. Life In the Tunnels Beneath New York City by Jennifer Toth
The Uncommon Reader. A novella by Alan Bennett
Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It. Stories by Maile Meloy
Burning Your Own by Glenn Patterson
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Lit. A memoir by Mary Karr
Beneath The Neon; Life and Death in the Tunnels Of Las Vegas. By Matthew O'Brien. Photos by Danny Mollohan
The Uncommon Reader. A novella by Alan Bennett
The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Felix Holt the Radical. A novel by George Eliot
Hollywood Animal. A memoir by Joe Eszterhas
The Blackwater Lightship. A novel by Colm Toíbin
Thelonious Monk. The Life and Times of an American Original. A biography by Robin D.G. Kelley
A Good School. A novel by Richard Yates
Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Why we need a green revolution—and how it can renew America by Thomas L. Friedman
In Praise Of Slowness. How a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed by Carl Honoré
The International. A novel by Glenn Patterson
Half Broke Horses. A true life novel by Jeannette Walls
The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico. Illustrated by Angela Barrett
The Drunkard's Walk. How randomness rules our lives by Leonard Mlodinow
Damage. A novel by Josephine Hart
Night and Day, a novel by Virginia Woolf
A Paradise Built In Hell. The extraordinary communities that arise in disaster, by Rebecca Solnit
Rhyming Life & Death. A novel by Amos Oz
Betrayal: The Life and Lies of Bernie Madoff by Andrew Kirtzman
Buffalo Lockjaw. A novel by Greg James
The Glass Castle. A memoir by Jeannette Walls
Beyond Black. A novel by Hilary Mantel
Disturbing the Peace. A novel by Richard Yates
Netherland. A novel by Joseph O'Neill
Knots. A novel by Nuruddin Farah
Cold Spring Harbor. A novel by Richard Yates
This Is Burning Man. Changing the world through art cars, bone towers, Danger Ranger,smut shacks, fire cannons, Glitter Camp, fighting robots, exploding men, princess warriors, pulsing soundscapes, neon skies, metal dragons, and Dr. Megavolt—the rise of the new American underground. By Brian Doherty
The Collected Short Stories of Richard Yates. Introduction by Richard Russo
Love, Anarchy, & Emma Goldman. A biography by Candace Falk
Firstborn. Poems by Louise Glück
Southern Horrors and Other Writings. The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900
Answered Prayers by Truman Capote
Mrs. Astor Regrets. The hidden betrayals of a family beyond reproach by Meryl Gordon
Conversations With Capote by Lawrence Grobel
Vanessa and Virginia. A novel by Susan Sellers
Blue Diary. A novel by Alice Hoffman
The Easter Parade. A novel by Richard Yates
The Thing Around Your Neck. Stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A Tragic Honesty. The life and work of Richard Yates by Blake Bailey
Half In Love. Stories by Maile Meloy
The Complete Stories of Truman Capote.
Strangers. A novel by Anita Brookner
Skylight Confessions. A novel by Alice Hoffman
This Land Is Their Land; reports from a divided nation by Barbara Ehrenreich
Brooklyn. A novel by Colm Tóibín
Waltz With Bashir; a Lebanon War Story. A graphic novel by Ari Folman and David Polonsky
The Healing Touch For Cats by Dr. Michael W. Fox
Dear Genius…A memoir Of My Life With Truman Capote by Jack Dunphy
Crime and Punishment In America. Why the solutions to America's most stubborn social crisis have not worked—and what will. By Elliott Currie
Capote: a biography by Gerald Clarke
Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A. by Mumia Abu-Jamal
The Song Is You, a novel by Arthur Phillips
The Story of the Night, a novel by Colm Tóibín
How It Ended: New and Collected Stories by Jay McInerney
Lockdown America: Police and prisons in the age of crisis by Christian Parenti
We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian
The Irish Famine; a documentary by Colm Tóibín and Diarmaid Ferriter
A Saint On Death Row; The Story of Dominique Green by Thomas Cahill
Flannery: A Life Of Flannery O'Connor by Brad Gooch
The Foreign Legion by Clarice Lispector. Translated by Giovanni Pontiero.
Family Ties by Clarice Lispector. Translated by Giovanni Pontiero.
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
Murder Chez Proust by Estelle Monbrun.
Assata; an autobiography by Assata Shakur aka Joanne Chesimard; member of the Black Liberation Army given political asylum in Cuba.
Born Standing Up: a comic's life by Steve Martin
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Yellow Wind by David Grossman. Translated from the Hebrew by Haim Watzman.