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A Child's Night Dream

Overview

The fictional Oliver Stone is alienated from the stultifying American nation in which he lives, and, abandoning his parents and his Ivy League education for Vietnam, he encounters a hell far more brutal than he could have ever imagined - a world of barroom whores, psychedelic drugs, and killing fields of indescribable proportions. His head torn apart, his emotions sundered, he begins an epic voyage that will lead him through the Merchant Marine, an unceremonious return to American soil, and a flight into madness ...

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Overview

The fictional Oliver Stone is alienated from the stultifying American nation in which he lives, and, abandoning his parents and his Ivy League education for Vietnam, he encounters a hell far more brutal than he could have ever imagined - a world of barroom whores, psychedelic drugs, and killing fields of indescribable proportions. His head torn apart, his emotions sundered, he begins an epic voyage that will lead him through the Merchant Marine, an unceremonious return to American soil, and a flight into madness south of the border into Mexico. A Child's Night Dream is a visit into the unconscious mind, a work that celebrates the power of dreams, propelling us to the brink of reality and then steering us back to calmer waters.

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Editorial Reviews

Gary Krist

In a recent interview with Microsoft's online magazine Mungo Park, director-producer Oliver Stone said of his soon-to-be published novel, A Child's Night Dream: "I hope that it has a universal appeal as a story of a boy passing through his youth into his young adulthood. That is, to me, its universal strength. It's classical. I hope it has a classical tone to it."

Classical? Well, no -- unless I missed the parts of Horace and Virgil that contain sentences like "Smell me, eat me, dip me in the boilers of the moon, but don't let it out, keep it in, keep it in, force it up me, fuck me good!" But this book is definitely a classic of a kind. A frankly autobiographical tale of a pretentious, angst-ridden adolescent's coming-of-age, it's sure to be hailed as a camp masterpiece, an unintentional comedy that makes even the most embarrassing examples of Stone's cinematic output look like milestones of sophistication and self-restraint.

The book, written when Stone was 19 but recently revised and "edited," has already attracted early gossip for its excruciating scenes of fantasy incest involving the protagonist -- one William Oliver Stone -- and his French-born mother. ("And it was my mother's face staring down at me, as she was doing this to me and me to her, both of us entwined like snakes of desire. My penis in her hairy hole. O how thrilling! How exciting!") But for anyone who cares about books, the real story surrounding the novel is not what it says about Stone's psyche (tortured, bathetic, innocent of irony -- just what we already knew, in other words), but rather what it says about the increasingly cynical tenor of the publishing industry. Let's not mince words here: From the erection that begins the book ("Do come. With your erection. It may wish to emote. In tune with Truth.") to the erection that ends it ("My penis sprouting to an enormous length. Like a decadent French flower. In the garden calling, 'Oliverre, Oliverre.'"), A Child's Night Dream is the most howlingly awful book I have ever read. The fact that a reputable New York publisher like St. Martin's Press has chosen to print it -- at a time when, according to the New York Times, excellent midlist authors cannot get their second and third novels published -- is the biggest scandal of all.

My intention here isn't to make fun of Oliver Stone -- but hell, how can anyone resist? No other response seems appropriate when confronted with paragraphs like this: "Woo! The alchemy of the magicmind. Teeth pushing out from my ass. Cursed piper. I ply the musical pipe. And prance along through taverns of country greenery. Tralala. And then, when the East sets in the West, I put my pipe down. And look back. And see. Nothing but useless creativity."

Useless creativity indeed. One can read for pages and pages in this novel without having the vaguest notion of what the author is talking about. Strangely, the simplistic, easy-to-follow moral schemas we have come to expect of Stone's cinematic diatribes -- in which ugly, old, evil, hard-drinking, right-wing conspirators face off against handsome, young, dynamic, progressive idealists -- are entirely absent here. Instead, we get occasional stretches of concrete narrative (rich boy clashes with American father and French mother, drops out of Yale, takes off for Vietnam to find himself, sees horror and corruption of war, returns to U.S., then goes to Mexico to write autobiographical novel and go mad) punctuated by endless oratorios on Grand Subjects, replete with smug schoolboy allusions to the most famous lines of Shakespeare, Hemingway and T.S. Eliot and other bits of high-flying absurdity. (My favorite? "Squeeze me, you fleshridden pythons of eternity.")

The following excerpt from the author's ramblings, however, is far more telling about the motivations of those involved in publishing this novel: "And for all of my Herculean adventures of the mind, who cares. Who cares? Greed. Greed." It's the only honest line in the book. St. Martin's is obviously expecting Stone's notoriety to sell plenty of copies of A Child's Night Dream. Publishers Weekly reports that the planned first print run of the book is 100,000. One hundred thousand copies of this? "Eek! Ook!" as young Oliver himself is wont to say. You can only wish that those fleshridden pythons had squeezed harder. -- Salon

Kirkus Reviews
You know you've arrived as a celebrity filmmaker when an editor urges you to ransack your 30-year-old shoeboxes in search of a novel as fragmentary and adolescent as this one. The result is both autobiographical (the hero flunks out of Yale and makes his way to Vietnam in 1966) and prophetic (the novel was completed after Stone's teaching stint in Vietnam, but before his military tour began there in 1967). The title accurately describes the tormented impotence of the narrator, who, obsessed with the parable of Jekyll and Hyde, variously calls himself Oliver and William Stone—Oliver, his French mother's son, is the one who's read Goethe and Mill and Wordsworth and Plato; William, his American father's son, longs for the rough life as a heroic rebel. Written under the weighty influence of Joyce, most of the novel is content to dissolve people and incidents in a heady stew of stream-of-consciousness writing by turns allusive and raw. "Why do I even bother wearing clothes?" Oliver wonders early on. "Nothing left to hide." But he goes on to reveal much, much more about his tortured soul in its journey from Yale to Vietnam and its dark dreams of 1999. Except for an extended seagoing anecdote that smacks more of Conrad than Joyce, though, non-Stone characters are largely restricted to walk-ons. ("You don't like people much, do you?" his future wife Isobel tells him. "Because you don't pay any attention to them when they talk to you.") Action and monologue alike are so savage—Oliver's volcanic sexual encounters leave him almost as scarred as his companions—that it's a shock to realize how little actual combat appears in a novel that's valuable chiefly as a revelation of whereStone dug for Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, and Heaven and Earth. A must for Stone fans, though cooler heads may find it the most gratuitous literary exhumation since Norman Mailer's Transit to Narcissus.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312194468
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Table of Contents

PROLOGUE vii
PART ONE AMERICA
1. New York 3
2. Yale College 23
3. America Farewell 25
PART TWO LAND ACROSS THE SEA
4. Dear Mom 35
5. Saigon Tea 43
6. The Merry Month of May 49
7. Killing France 57
8. Mei Lin 65
9. Death Comes in the Afternoon 77
INTERLUDE
10. Future Fantasy #1 109
PART THREE HOME
11. The Boilers of the Moon 131
12. Oregon! 181
13. Future Fantasy #2 189
14. Final Things 205
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First Chapter

CHAPTER ONE

NEW YORK

SHYLY INTO THIS Tuesday night party in May of 65. The year the world hinged. All of seventeen. Here on West 57th Street. Do come. With your erection. It may wish to emote. In tune with Truth. What am I looking for? And tomorrow, at Yale, where I'm supposed to be tonight, the last examination. In Ancient Greek. Which I'm failing, and if I fail tomorrow, I somehow sense. Some great Big Break in my life.

In this giant artist's studio on this hot drinking night full of fame. And the matching music, frugging bosoms. Painters and moviestars. And plebians in the street passing and pointing and looking up with disappointment at the giant picture windows. Silhouettes of souls who never worked a day in their lives. Why is it so? That we work and they play. And yet we marvel. At the wetness of Fame. These people wrapped about the bark of a tree. Famous and never to be famous. This columnist of the gray hair. That moviestar. A tropical growth of eyelash guarding her eyecave. Embarrassed to be here. With the black hairdressers who introduce themselves as Socrates and Caesar. Designers with long curly hair, earrings and boyish sweet-sixteen faces ready to undergo the popper and the knife. Glittering metal dresses. And bosoms caked with white makeup.

Such colors! What a party! For the truth is, it is. And that one, the tall strange-looking one with the long red hair? Who paints magnificent photographs. With neon tubes. And in that corner. With his wife. The novelist. Born in Bulgaria. Boozing down gin into his pot. Really want to talk to him. But I won't....

Waiter delving in drinks. Various people, with stony faces, casting about the room to let you know you are held in cherished contempt. Who are you?

"What is he?"

"Actually he's a woman now--I know--he looks just awful, but don't tell anyone I told you, or he--I mean she--just would kill me!" Bzzz, bzzzz.

"How marvelous an idea, come talk to me about it." Heh heh, bzzz, bzzzzz,

"I'm bored, baby. Let's split. Cha-cha."

Seals, undismayed, sunning in summer. Seal summer. Their insunsilent light beetling over the merry sea. Mother's portrait painter, Otavio, in his whiny Chilean voice complaining, "Now there're so many famous people, don't you think it's much more fashionable to be anonymous?"

Titters and bored laughter.

O who was that who simply left? I think that was whom I was looking for. Was I? Will I remember this party in future years? When I'm a doctor and bring hope to the sick, when I'm a lawyer and bring clarity to complexity, when I'm a financier and bring bigness to smallness, will I ... will I? Are you alive, Oliver? In this room full of fame. I touch the top. With my fingertips. And with my toes, do I really feel anything?

Though not one neurosurgeon. Or handyman. Servant of mankind. Too dull. I wish I could meet a banker or a strongman. Models three thousand feet high. Long aloof noses. Airy tread. They slip through the crowd like panthers in the night and from the treetops contemplate the bald heads of wealthy males. Might marry. Then, their fickle souls willing, they dance. Sovereign and suave and sinuous, tepidly without charity. So nice. But beware the morning. When you awake and, seeing your bedpartner, squawk and squirm away. Because she or he hasn't read a book in ages. Though she or he does watch television.

It scares me sometimes, it scares me very much. That I am not a faker. Looking with lust. As they retire to the toilet. Pretending to be witty. To be gay. Pretending that I am what I am not and wanting to be what I am. But confused. By it altogether in sum. I am paranoid because it is as if the imminence of my greatness were an open secret. Seriously now. There's this immense gap, as deep and dark as the interstellar night through which the cold wind blows. It lies in the feeling that everything of the present is overshadowed by the past. I stub my toe, I curse, I think on the battle of Cannae, and I ridicule my hurt. I hear of courage and I think of Caesar marching into Gaul. I dislike somebody and I tell him so, not so much because my emotions outlaw him but because just a quarter of a century ago, some forty million people were brutally killed. What point could there be in my pain, you see, what significance?

What a party! Oliver in the corner full of facts, his mindlips churning with pros and cons and contretemps. People pointing, frowning. A few weeks ago an essay was returned to me, it was a humilifying experience but no more different from a thousand others. This testicle of an English teacher telling me I had a preponderant dislike of the way things were done, that I made things up, and he was smirking through the cancer at what he thought was the approving reception of his words; he was entirely bald and he was laughing, his hairless arms crossed on his white knuckles in delicate equipoise and private insanity, smelling of soft buttersweat and repressed fantasies. Laughing and laughing, he laughed without reason; and the whole class began to laugh, until they were all laughing and laughing, because they were laughing at me. Haw Haw Haw! Haw Haw Haw! All the ribs quivering and going Haw Haw Haw!

Haw Haw Haw!

Everybody. People. Party. God. And above all, women. Laughing!

O but I know I'll be rich someday. Faraway.
For the time being
Just stay
A--
Live.

And marvel at the wetness of fame. This girl in golden horsehair. On every billboard on every highway in America. Sipping coca-cola. Looking for virgins. American dream. People pass and wish. Now she's coming to me. Is she? With cloven-hoofed Andre, who walks like a female but has breasts like a male, Pan God sent for a handjob. "Ah, Olivyeah! Ca va? Tu connais Samantha? Sammie?" Nervous as I speak I know not what. Oui, save baby. Your polite little breasts. Lay my triste head. And your trunk. Around which, raving footloose maniac as I am, I would like to wrap myself in storm, snow, or sleet.

Greek. Eeek! Must possess that tongue because if I don't they shall not promote me. And promotion is what ...

Samantha putting the cigarette to her lips. Krak! a cigarette bolt, kernel of the Swiss night. Now enwombing it with a gentle ovoidal greeting, smoke eggchanting, tumefying, the cancer devour, dentists in dreams see sets of teeth clacking through the night and I see cells of iridescent convicts in my hell, private hell. Whip! Krak! Owled deep in her throat of birth, she says in a voice deeper than mine, remotely rumbling German-Swedish in its design:

"I know your mother," she says. As if that defined me. Her gold hair flowing in the wind.

"Yes," I skip by it, pained by the thought of her vast usurpation, everybody I know knowing my mother. "Are you enjoying the party?" I ask, not knowing why because I'm not.

"Are you?" she asks back, the prophetess.

"Oh yes." Not really. No. Who knows? Pause. "You know you're very pretty." God what stupidity comes from this whiny voice of mine!

"Am I?" She acknowledges me, growing a little bit bored, I can see. "I don't think so."

"You are!" I blurt again. Oh God!

Then without any warning, she wonders, "Why don't you look in people's eyes when you speak?"

O? What does that mean? Pretend not to listen. Can't possibly look her in the eye. Would die. And her thigh. My. How do I measure love? What is the smell, what is the sound? Clickety clack. Her earthy good-looking feet in high-heeled shoes clicking down Fifth Avenue and her shaved Dior armpits sweating silver dollars in the springsun. And under her dress. A surprise. Don't look! But in the interval. To be misunderstood. All prophets are. Unrecognized. How old I feel. For my age. Busy probing to the bottom of life's meaning. Its flesh, its bones. Reading Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom. His fever. Wrestling with the devils. Emerging to lead the Arab hordes to independence. Me too. Want to be a common man--Nostromo. Bonded with the earth. Must forgo college.

So, what do I say now? O this nervous nothingness. Have another drink. Say it's hot here. I do like the sun though. Especially in Lisbon, and you? Over there in the corner. Changing the subject, do you see her? The star of La Comedie Francaise back in the 1920s, yes. Friend of my mom's. Ho ho, has she had her day in the sun! Looks like a lizard. Or a harlequin. Withered harlequin.

The golden girl looking at me, her eyes like Greek Goddesses of judgment. This malice comes, you know, from nervousness and nothingness. I too am a part of all I have met. Heh heh. She mumbles something to cloven-hoofed Andre, distracted now by two boys giggling suggestions in his ear, is that a popper I saw flash me by?

And by the way, I add, trying to regain her attention, you know in the corner over there, the former reigning beauty of Paris, La Comtesse Je Ne Sais Pas Quoi? Yes, that one. Former protege of Picasso. Still has it, don't you think? Oh that name! Anyone could take a dump here on the floor and call it a "picasso" and they'd all worship at the fecal altar.

My schoolboy cynicism hangs there, like bad morning mouth, Samantha sniffing it. All these words. Opinions. Yours, mine. Who cares? Why speak? Making now for the backstairs of my mind, like Edward Hyde, mounting them at a fugacious speed. Reaching my solitary quarters. Little cackles of malignancy. I am crept in favor with myself. Like a spider who speaks. And crawls. Suppose I actually looked like Edward Hyde? Wouldn't be my fault. Walking down the street and somebody's heart stopped while staring at me. No. Though I must admit. Some strangeness pricking in my head. As if a krait snake had escaped my intestine and was mad and loose among the sundrenched rocks of my brain.

Samantha's body leaning more and more to Andre, excluding me. My eyes wandering off to hide somewhere beneath the growing mountains of sweat which come on so so fast in moments like these. Amazing how quickly my cells burn their molten wax onto the surface of my pores and into the waters of the world. Why do I even bother wearing clothes? Nothing for me to hide. Everybody knows everything. It's too late now. The alienation started the day they stole me. From the womb. In Paris. I remember. The long swim. Acidic passageways. It was dark. My sperm tail wiggling. I was a nervous baby. And thus never was the center of things. A Galahad in a sea of troubles, as strong as I am witless, and Samantha, yes, Sammie, please, what: be nice to me.

Lock me in your thighs. Bury me. Me o my. In the earth. With the worms. Hide the world. By hiding me. Sweet deception. As the waters gurgle by. And from the liquid cave I poke my head and see. What Eve first knew in Paradise. Which is the roar of the Planets. And the sweet retort of the Kataract.

And then she, who calls herself a fabulous beast, she who sets afloat a thousand pavilions, of blue and white, and red and gold, which sail softly, like a coif in a snow-laden squall, over the whitewinter Alps and settle themselves like parasols on the Champs-Elysees in the spring. Ah! she reaches over softly sweetly and, with a thousandshipped face, in dismissal lays her parfine hand on my squalid pathetic claw, not without sympathy.

"You're hot," she notes with disgusted empathy. Anxious to leave. I'm slipping fast ... grab it now! "Nice to meet you."

"No, please! Don't go!" I don't say. As she goes away. Forever. Nor look at your thighs, no nor tread on graves of grass, nor enjoy yourself unwholesomely, nor fuck other women, nor do this nor that, believe me, he smiled weakly, like a gentleman, in a gesture of congenital forfeiture. As her fingerflowers move away, on their hundred and twelve odors, and Samantha smiles at another in the Spanish sun.

No doubt I am worth one brief comment. Thinking me sad and scholarly. And possibly boring. Looking at my clubfoot. A pity. And pity by pity reach into the stars. And with my great big meaty hairy paw. Smash much glass! O why! Have I not done what they tell me to do in the books? And that is to care, to be a man, to flatter the rest of humanity! My person. Murderer. Dreamer. Intellectual. Like a little gibbon trapped in a tree. Monkeyskull. And yet I've failed Physics, Economics, and now most likely classical Greek. Strange sad sample of thought. That I've come under the influence of the Polishman. A world never clearly defined, neither humorous nor tragic, yet expressive of my deepest, most unconscious desire, is there really such a thing as un paradis artificiel, an oasis of frangible understanding? Or are these the ravings of an ancient sailor living oh so sensibly in London clubs dreaming of old storms in the Southasian seas?

Is there an exotic world? Is there adventure? Is there Romance?

Conrad's world draws me. "Beware all ye who enter here, Abandon Hope!" And one day live in China. Manage a factory full of women. Little caps on their heads. I wouldn't be embarrassed. Volleyball games on Saturday afternoon. I'll blow the whistle. Keep score. Referee disputes ... yes.

What a party! And in the morning, I will awake and, in amaze, masturbate. These feline faces, bones of china, tiger women laughing, reality reeling behind the laughing crying face of Fun Fun Fun!

And lastly Mother who, sweeping aside fun for fucking, makes her entrance. The cynosure of discriminating eyes. Classical features. In her gown. Growing out of the ground. Knows everybody. Even me. Invited me. She has aged a bit yes, with time, but grows more attractive, more complex, more radiant. Her limiting factor in the past had always been her Virtue. Now, without a husband, she blooms. Like a huge orchid which brushes aside all other flowers in the field, and opens its empirerich mouth to swallow all the million billion trillion bees spiders and birds, she blooms. Puff!

As her son, thinker, thinks in the corner, perplexed, grown too old with thinking, and too little fun. And murder.

"Antony," her lover coming through these crowds to greet me bigly. Used to play water polo back in the Colonies. Till he got serious and came to the City. To meet the women who could afford him his cups of wine.

"Allo Ollie, 'ow ya bin," in his Australian bushman.

I murmured, "Fine. And you?"

"O can't cry, I'm 'igh."

"How so?" I inquired.

"'Ere," 'e said, and proffered a freshbaked cookie. I declined, secretly frightened of him. Married three times, two children, tried to kill himself more than once. Like my father, frightened of that which I could not comprehend.

My father and I had had lunch that afternoon at the Palm, his favorite redmeat haunt, cartoons on the wall, the smell of beef and smoke. We talked. Of many things. Such as his insurance policy. My chances. His chances. Slipping on snowy streets. Skiing without his glasses. Being clawed to death by a falcon on his way to work. "What would you do if I died, Huckleberry?" Death. His ultimate frustration. Every morning at three dread stalks his atmosphere. When I sleep I sleep. Not he. Frightened of philosophy. He coughs, he groans, he totters on the brink; and when he breathes, he rauks on his rhythm, and his rhythm damns his dream. An arthritic doglike friendly scotchsmell that clings to his body and clothes. In my sleep I smell him through the wall. The static breathless irrevocable commotions of Death: promotes, haunts, and wracks his scotchmind! Moors and ghosts and an insane soul to bagpipes whistling over the mists. It is not strange that the purpose and passion of his noctambulation is urination. He must urinate for fear that if he didn't render the yellowed pomp from his system, he would be cold and corpsed by morning. Because he knows in his gut that Death steals by night, twixt two and five; and so each night, he fights, fights viciously, to remain alive.

In the eleventh year of life, I fought madly with my father and under the influence of my rage cried, "I hate you, I've hated you from the day I was born!"

I remember particularly his face then, shivering with mute, incomprehensible hurt, numbed, turning and gasping for breath, he was so surprised, so anguished. His face revealed all this to me in a moment, and I immediately regretted what I had said. "Forgive me please, forgive me Daddy!" ... and I remember feeling a very strong urge to be cradled in his arms, to be perhaps blessed. He was not an affectionate man, not given to displays of emotion, but he was a powerful, barrel-cheated man, very much similar in my imagination to a Jewish patriarch who commands the unfailing obedience of his Son and who in turn raises his Son to be a Father unto his own Son. But!-and thus perhaps the reason why--his soul knew not really the word of God, he accepted not the resurrection of Jesus, nor comprehended the grandeur of the spirit world, all of which by instinct I knew and yes! wanted wished him, my preacher my Father, to teach and pass on to me, as in my knowledge, God-fearing Abraham had done with Isaac and when called upon yes! to sacrifice his Only Son to the Lord God, he did obey! But he had no such Father my Father, and thus by indirection I had no Father because I could not obey him.

And thus it went, on and on, Father insecreting three vodka martinis to his brain, more than usual, and me one, more and more ruthless. "Dad, don't you understand, don't you understand? I have desires, wishes, that are different from yours!"

"We're all different, kiddo," he replied, reflecting his own fears of the Depression and not getting a job back in '31. Until Dad, not having read fiction except Mark Twain millions of years ago, not believing in such journeys as Lord Jim's and Tom Jones', said, "You can't be an individual in this world, Huckleberry, and expect to get away with it. Only a few do." Then added, "You're a bright boy--if you drop out of Yale, you'd be making a big mistake! You want to be a rebel, but the rebels don't win in the end." Or something like that, it's hard to remember how a long-dead father talks.

And then I, exasperated and familiar with the several examples of Goethe, Mill, Wordsworth, and Plato, who all experienced despair at a young age, and wanting furthermore the rough life, wanting to flex my mare's muscles and be a hero, and a killer besides--if necessary--exclaimed something to the effect of "I'm not bright! You mean jaded, the very finish of wit. I am as an ape to Ruskin, and we as a century are as apes to the nineteenth century!"

Father, his red face swaying from side to side under the demented martini moon, then made some condescending remark about the need for common sense in a confused century. Ignoring the interruption, I continued, "Why, what's happened in the interval? Two World Wars? But why, how does that explain the loss of intellect since the Victorian days, what does war do to the soul? You see, Dad, I must leave this country which I hate but I also love because it is big and beautiful and undeveloped and pure despite talk of its perdition, and yet it is intensely uneducated. That is why, don't you understand, I am leaving. To learn why we are what we are."

And finished, something to that effect, enrapt with the truth of my statement. I don't exactly know what my father then said. All I heard were the words, "You're nuts!" That in effect was what he meant. That neither he nor my mother had ever really believed in me, unable to realize I was a person separate from himself, something other than his flesh and blood, someone with a soul of his own. I don't believe you. It rings to this day in my ears, challenging me to take the untenable position. I was fatally furious, the dialogue proceeding apace to an unnatural conclusion that ended with me rising from the table in the hidebound restaurant full of laughing dying red faces, the vein in my forehead visibly swollen, I shouted at the befuddled figure almost thrice my age, "Don't you understand, shithead! I'd like to kill you, you're such a, sucha, sucha ..."

And swept out, knowing I had said something not only illogical but also too ugly for repetition. Father in the redmeat restaurant, in spite of his state, shocked. At his plumrose plethora.

Who
One innocent day,
Feather-fledged,
Stole a summer's stroll on the street
When the big wind came up
And whoo... whooo
Went and blew his son away

Poetry. Fire. Flew. I go. Smash the barriers, fight off the bloody scholars; they read and they read, they read until their eyes go blue. And yet they never understand. Sad scholars who see not the sunset at sea, the fastfading margin of experience, the nature that is one with Ulysses, who dared strive with the gods. Scurry forth to sea. At once, at once. Sad scholars. Sit by your magic lanterns in gabled rooms. Refine your rhetoric. Become as perfect as possible in every thinking way. Ye have toiled hard. Ye merit the laurels. Sad scholars.

Sad little Olivers. In the vice. Who am I, in my little college room, going home and saying, "Father, you're wrong, Eliot's poem is structured on the belief that ... " as each eight-thirty morning, two million workers pour into Wall Street to give their souls. In hordes that pass me by. Fear stepping down to my simple level. The plexus of irongray life. Even Father, who makes five times more than the average man, says he's poor. The women who want this and that, bric and brac. What right me, what right life? Squeeze me, you fleshridden pythons of eternity. Coils of slime, as the day is long, despair distinguishes itself in extinction. Of this special species. Stone people. Novelists write about us. I belong in a book. Not in a life. Where it is looney. Where do I belong? Where if they wanted me, would they send me; would theology explain why and say, dear butterfly, your locus naturalis is? South of simplicity and east of evil? I read of this theology. It makes me feel good. Theologians are warm and good people, they reach out from the page and say you are sick rotten ugly and addled, and forget it Oliver, unless you turn your fear to faith. Faith in Jeesus. And love in God. And kiss the lipless Holy Ghost. How does it go--"neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, shall separate us from the love of the Lord?" Or my father's favorite quote on the Temple walls, "Love justice, do mercy and walk humbly with thy God." 'Tis beautiful 'tis that. Tit for tat. I'll give you my Beauty. You give me your Truth. But don't bamboozle me.

Taking leave of the vulgar novelist, Mother at last making her way to me in the corner. Hi Mom. Was that you there on the day I was born? In '46? Could you, so bright, so beautiful, really have been in that hospital? Occupied totally. In bringing me to the light? Kissing me and saying, "Oliverre!" in an attention-getting French olive accent, "Why are you staying in ze corner, zere are so many girls wanting to meet you?"

You me. He she it. These girls. Meet me. Why?

"Zese are girls you should know, not the whores your fadder sees."

Warm waxen well-known breath. Her telephone was Templeton Eight: tee:eee:ate. Her son, by now maudlin and drunk and embarrassed, looking at Mommy, my mommy, beginning to birth the pain in his throat, it aches so. Your age. Your age. Admit! Admit! How old you are, how old? I don't know! cried the voice born of Kafka. Always lying Mother--her age, her operations, the divorce, reasons to dump me in these camps they call summer. "Just a white lie," you always said, but how could I trust you ever?

"Don't start, willya. Leave Dad's girls out of this!" My sarcastic manner, angry at her, who are you to judge? Tell me all the time whom I should see. And whom should fuck.

"Living zere off 'im, taking 'is money, tramps! It's not a place for a boy to grow up. Fucking every thing he saw, he was a pig your fadder ... his whores ..." Steam pouring from her nose with the unsaid words but so terribly hurt had she once been, Mother, she broke a broom over his head three months pregnant into the New World. In decadent later years, regaling her friends at endless dinners, "O zen she call me a beetch, this leetle floooozie Lou like, and she hit me with her zandbag you know, but she don't know me! I take her dress like this! and I tear it all ze way down ze front! She look so surprise! She scream at me, 'You beetch!' and then oop! I hit her with my wight hand! Zen she fall down, Lou is white, he never believe this!"

Her friends all laughing as I listen. Mother, revved on wine and weed, launches on into another tale of a late evening in the snow, wearing her long leopardskin coat. When she took a lengthy leak in the shadows off Fifth Avenue, so long it sounded like a horse stalling, and her tuxedoed manscort, giggling, grew impatient, "Come on, Jacqueline!" And Jacqueline saying, "Yes, yes, I am coming, don't leave me!" in the shadows in her leopardskin down the taxpayer's drain pissing. Until a traveler came out of the white waste and asked, "What's that there, in the shadows?" Mom trying to be inconspicuous, crouched in her great fur. And the manscort, laughing, said, "O that? That's my sheepdog." And the table tumbled into tears of moon gas, and I thought to myself, the fabric of fantasy is rent when fiction to fact is lent.

"I never see you," she to me says now, "you never come by," as the waiter gorges us with new drinks and Otavio asks her if she's coming later? Of course I am! Because later is the place where Mommy always goes. And she's right. We never do. See each other like mother and son could, should. As close as we could ever get, in the summers in France, naked in the shower, Mommy would ask me sometimes, "Oliverre, bring me ze soap, darling." "Yes, Mommy," in my nerve-wracking charcoal gray suit and neatly combed black hair, the pith of tiny gentlehood, I would pass the soap, gazing upon her corpus nudus, the sensation as exciting as an airplane first dipping into a lacuna, swooping off with my genitals. Oh I had seen my mother naked many times in the gargoyled bathrooms of old Paris--always late morning, she never woke before eleven, and then in irritated humor, abhorring all questions till noon, a silk shade above her brows as she sipped from a tall orange juice glass with wine and cigarette mouth, wincing as the light tumbled over the rooftops into her regal bedroom.

At her toilette, where in ancient France the courtiers watched the Sun King pee in his chamber pot, little "Oliverre" would stand in obeisance at bathroom's edge stealing glimpses from the many angles of the many mirrors, anxious most of all to know where she would leave me that night. Waves of her deep black cunt hairs appearing and disappearing through the steaming shower glass. A silly pink flower cap on her head. Suddenly she looks bald and ugly. But no matter how disgusting I've seen her, sick or on a toilet seat, I'm still deeply drawn to her femininity, to her all-knowing, forgiving body with its earthy black bush. We talk through the water in French. "Where you going tonight, Mom?" Tension overflowing. She mutters something I cannot understand.

"Oliverre, bring me ze soap." Yes, of course.

"But am I coming with you tonight? ... Please!" Such a gentleman I was then. You and I, Mother, when the evening is spread against the sky, shall stroll down the "Champs Eliza," as the English say in their frightful French accents, arm in arm, mother son, and I shall treat you to tea and eclair, an orb of white bread baking hot and sweet, unkissed, unbit. Psss! The shower has been wrenched on in this eloquent bathroom. But still no answer. She adjusts the rubber wedge on her head. In she goes. "Mommy?"

Speak to me. Her rubber flesh, seen at intervals through the French glass.

"No, darling, I can't ... not tonight. I 'ave to go to the Remoulades, it's too adult for you. But tomorrow night, we go to the movies. O zut! No, I can't. I forget about ... but we'll be together all afternoon, hokay?"

"I really want to talk to you," she says now, trying. "I never see you, you never come by," she repeats herself, the noise of the party robbing her of much memory. Her face more masklike now at forty. "Really ..." her attention now taken by someone else. Calling out to him, "Out, cheri, tout de suite!" I'll be there, as I split my infinitives with my son, because I belong to the world. And I am everybody's friend and know any name worth dropping. After all, I am Madame du Vin, the biggest whore of all!

O Mom, once indeed you were my mother, one of the sweetest kindest gentlest of mothers. I loved you without bounds, and now, and now to force my face to look upon you, to hear these words, to batten on this moor, my God! can I not say I have been most foully deceived? "But what!" she protests, "I have been the best mother! I have always loved you...." the denial and the denial and the denial, creeps out this petty pace, O Mother! For all the liquor I've acquitted myself with here, do you know how long it's been since I've touched a girl? How long? A year, Mother, a year. Yes, and in its stead, the cruel sickness of masturbation. In the tub. In the early morning hours, and worst of all, in toilets furtive, O Mother, I am ashamed to say this to you, forgive me but I shall lose my sanity if I stay at Yale! You guarantee me future wealth and position if I graduate, and I guarantee you the vanity of insanity! O Mother! Is it so difficult to sleep with a girl? Is it so difficult to be an animal?

Mother looks at me, understanding, pitying me and, contrary to what I expected, says, "but you're not the only one who hasn't had zex, darling. Antony and I haven't made love in two months, he drink too much and he..."

Two months. A year, Mother, a year!

Well, she says, that helpless fear in her eyes, what can she do for a grown son, what would you do if you weren't in school?

O a steamer to Australia. I'll farm! A wild people, divided into three parts, fierce in their beer, where the women are tall and marsupial and at night leap over the moon.

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