Friday, August 12, 2011

Liars and Saints

Liars and Saints, a novel by Maile Meloy (Scribner, 2003). The first two thirds of this book were particularly good.

He said he was a photographer, and offered to take their picture for her husband; he said it was the least he could do for a man who was at war. So he came to the house, with a big flash umbrella and a camera on a tripod, and set his equipment in the living room. Yvette made him a highball, and because the bottle of ginger ale was open, she made herself one, too. On an empty stomach it went right to her head. It was three in the afternoon on a Saturday, and she'd dressed the girls up for the picture, but the photographer wasn't in any hurry. He was clean-cut with clear green eyes and looked like he could have been a soldier himself, in khaki trousers and a pressed shirt. They talked about the situation in Korea, and he told an off-color joke about war brides. He asked for another drink and she made him one, but Clarissa stalked in and said she wasn't wearing nice clothes another minute, so the photographer arranged them on the sofa and started to fiddle with his flash.

Clarissa sat on the ottoman, and Margot stood behind, with her hands on her sister's shoulders. Clarissa hated to be touched by Margot, and her hair was coming out of its curls. Yvette pulled the hem of Clarissa's skirt to cover her knees. Margot smiled serenely at the camera, and nothing about her was out of place. Yvette felt like her own smile might look tipsy, so she pressed her hand against her lips to try to straighten her mouth without smearing her lipstick.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Over There" by Alan King

From Alan King's poem "Over There," which was published in Blue Lotus Review:

You said it, pointing

at the light, thick as gravy
and almost as edible, the way
the moon ladled it over you.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Maile Meloy, Half in Love

Half in Love, a collection of short stories by Maile Meloy (Scribner, 2002).

A few highlights:

"Tome" (from Best New American Voices 2000) For eight months, I had been telling my client he had no tort claim. . . . Sawyer had worked active, outside jobs all his life, and suddenly he could do nothing. It seemed to be the idleness, more than the brain damage, that made him crazy. He couldn't read, because the words came out scrambled, and he could barely sit still to try. He phoned me three times a day. My secretary stopped putting his calls through, so he came to the office, on foot because they wouldn't let him drive. He was a big, graying, blond-bearded man, my father's age, muscular but getting fat without his work. He treated me like a daughter, scolding and cajoling me. He wanted to sue, demanded to sue.

"Aqua Boulevard" (from The Paris Review, winner of the 2001 Aga Khan Prize for Fiction) Tati gave me the leash, a long orange strap, and the children kissed Oliver good-bye and went out the door. . . . I had not wanted a dog, but the children loved him. It was true they did not fight so much now. The day my wife brought him home, my daughter held the dog in her arms and said, "This is the happiest day of my life." Children are whores. They will say anything. But I thought it could be true.

"Kite Whistler Aquamarine" (from Witness) Then the temperature dropped overnight to twenty below, and a Thoroughbred filly was born at our house, early, before we expected her.

"Last of the White Slaves" In the house in Saudi Arabia they employed two Arab servants, Eugénie said: a cook and a butler, both discreet and understanding about the sleeping arrangements. It was an embassy house, marble-floored against the heat, with a wing for the servants. The cook, a widow, kept to herself. An older man named Ahmed was butler and valet; he had worked for the old ambassador, and Miles considered him a friend. But Christopher disliked the old man, and finally threw a fit about the way the laundry was done.