Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Feast of Love

THE MAN – ME, this pale being, no one else, it seems – wakes in fright, tangled up in the sheets.

The darkened room, the half-closed doors of the closet and the slender pine-slatted lamp on the bedside table: I don’t recognize them. On the opposite end of the room, the streetlight’s distant luminance coating the window shade has an eerie unwelcome glow. None of these previously familiar objects has any familiarity now. What’s worse, I cannot remember or recognize myself. I sit up in bed – actually, I lurch in mild sleepy terror toward the vertical. There’s a demon here, one of the unnamed ones, the demon of erasure and forgetting, I can’t manage my way through this feeling because my mind isn’t working, and because it, the flesh in which I’m housed, hasn’t yet become me.

Looking into the darkness, I have optical floaters: there, on the opposite wall, are gears turning separately and then moving closer to one another until their cogs start to mesh and rotate in unison.

Then I feel her hand on my back. She’s accustomed now to my night amnesias, and with what has become an almost automatic response, she reaches up sleepily from her side of the bed and touches me between the shoulder blades, in this manner the world’s objects slip back into their fixed positions.

“Charlie,” she says. Although I have not recognized myself,…


So, would you read further?

The first time I picked up Charles Baxter’s THE FEAST OF LOVE, I put it back down by page two. Yeah, I flipped the page, but only because I always read at least 2-3 pages in. I couldn't believe this book was a finalist for the National Book Award. After all, the story opens with this guy Charlie, the narcissistic author himself I presumed (rightly) waking up in the middle of the night, the details of his insomnia (and later perambulating in his mid-Western neighborhood) told in excruciating detail. I gave the book another couple of whirls, then pitched it on my to-be-donated pile.

Vacation called. I packed my bag for my jaunt to Massachusetts: some clothes, my myriad of notebooks, and a ton of books. Including, quite by accident, this one.

Imagine my disappointment when I yanked this out of my backpack. But for some reason, on the third attempt, magic took hold.

My mind immediately glommed onto the gorgeous prose. Yeah, this guy breaks all the rules, too. This short excerpt is actually a prologue (prelude) told in first person present about waking up. WAKING UP!!!! But told so well: ‘lurching in mild sleepy terror toward the vertical’ and ‘the demon of erasure and forgetting’. And here: ‘In this manner the world’s objects slip back into their fixed positions.’

I devoured this book in two sittings (And only because it was time for a ride to the local ice cream stand). Baxter weaves his story using at least seven different first-person narrators who tell their variably perverse/honest/
horrifying/etcetera stories of love in uniquely distinct voices. THE FEAST OF LOVE had me laughing at loud one moment, then sobbing the next. It’s a powerful story, one of the best I’ve read in my lifetime. So good I’m in the midst of rereading, to catch the nuances I missed the first time around. Definitely now one of my life-time favorites...

THE WRITING... I let my rewrite marinate for a few days; I'll start grilling tomorrow. Meanwhile, started reading Alison Bass's SIDE EFFECTS, a non-fic on lies and cover-ups by Big Pharma and a few crooked academicians on the dangerous propensity of PAXIL, an antidepressant, to induce suicidal ideation and self-violence by young users. Research for PURE, of course, and the day job. Also penned quite a few notes on PURE.

Good to be back. Peace, Linda


  1. *banging my head on the table*

    can't do it. just can't get into it. it's probaby more a reflection of where I'm at, but I can't get past the first paragraph. it just seems so...indulgent.

    aack. I'm sorry.

    soooo. lobster rolls. I didn't get any myself. I DID have a lobster claw from Mike's Pastry, however. don't you just love vacation??? now. if I could just get my pants to button again.


  2. An interesting assignment, like the idea of picking five of your favourite books and looking at why you would flip the page, a great way to learn how to craft the first page.
    I would flip the first page of this book, I want to know more about this character and why he's like this.
    Pleased to see you back, take care, Gillian

  3. Don’t know if this the "right" answer but Yes I would read on. It was easy for me to read and get in the bedroom with him and see her hand on his back. Perhaps it is because I have felt that somewhat separation of where am I, after starting to wake from a very real feeling dream.

    and why are you doing this to me? did you hear about the giant bookcase we just made and are trying to get me to totaly fill it up.

  4. I wanted to read more after the first sentence! Want to share with you that I thought you were the author!
    Didn't notice the book with the title and who wrote it....

  5. Yes, twiz, your reaction was mine as well - so self-indulgent! But I am so glad I persevered. And yes, I love vacay and still don't understand what sick mind invented the 5-day workweek. Shoot him, I say!

    Gillian, Paige, and Ethel - glad you'd continue reading on and happy I've introduced you to Baxter. Bookshelves are made to be filled, Paige, so go to it! Ethel, I'm soooooo flattered you thought I wrote this... if only I did. Peace, Linda

  6. My name is Michael Smith and i would like to show you my personal experience with Paxil.

    I am 40 years old. Have been on Paxil for 5 years now. Please be careful if coming off, i started to wean myself with out doctors help couldnt afford it. I went from 20 mgs to 10 mgs for a month, then 10 mgs to 5 mgs for a month. Because the 20 mgs were way to strong took 20 for 5 years and was always on edge. After about 1 month on 10 felt a little better. I stopped for 7 days completly and man did I feel like shit man I didn’t want to leave the house , shop! I just started back on 5 mgs to get it back in my system. Who know what is the right amount you have to be the test subject on yourself!

    I have experienced some of these side effects-
    Headaches, tremors, emotional wreck, just the blah's when I 1st started takin wasnt bad, cause I also way taken klonopin.

    I hope this information will be useful to others,
    Michael Smith