The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man

4.1 27
by Francesca Lia Block, Block
     
 

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After the death of her father, Laurel is haunted by a legacy of family secrets, hidden shame, and shattered glass. Immersing herself in the heady rhythms of a city that is like something wild, caged, and pacing, Laurel tries to lose herself. But when she runs away from the past, she discovers a passion so powerful, it brings her roundabout and face-to-face with the

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Overview

After the death of her father, Laurel is haunted by a legacy of family secrets, hidden shame, and shattered glass. Immersing herself in the heady rhythms of a city that is like something wild, caged, and pacing, Laurel tries to lose herself. But when she runs away from the past, she discovers a passion so powerful, it brings her roundabout and face-to-face with the demons she wants to avoid.

In a stunning departure from her enormously popular Weetzie Bat books, Francesca Lia Block weaves a darkly exhilarating tale of shattered passions and family secrets.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though its cast is new and its tone considerably more somber, this intoxicating if painful work shares with Block's ( Weetzie Bat ) earlier novels a magic-tinged Los Angeles setting; emotionally charged, hip writing; and a stylized narrative construction derived from the timeless rhythms of myth and fairy tales. Here, the novel (as well as its striking design) is structured upon the conventions of a tarot reading, adding another layer of meaning and mystery to the hypnotic prose. Sitting in a hospital waiting room, grimly anticipating news of her terminally ill father's death, Laurel meets an eerily attractive man named Jack. During the sultry summer following her father's death, Laurel encounters Jack at various underground clubs and parties. A bittersweet romance springs up, with motorcyle-riding, black-clad Jack (who may or may not be a reincarnation of aspects of Laurel's father) providing Laurel with spiritual and erotic guidance. With Jack's aid, Laurel slowly acknowledges and transcends torturous family secrets: her father's sexual abuse of her and her mother's silent complicity. Although the discussion of incest is fairly indirect, Block is otherwise candid; she describes Laurel's sexuality frankly (``The closest I have come to coming since I was fourteen''), and drugs play a prominent part in her exotic, lushly described L.A. scene. Disturbing but ultimately exhilarating. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
The ALAN Review - Teri S. Lesesne
Laurel lives near the Hollywood sign outside of Los Angeles. In many ways, she is like the city: wild and unpredictable. Still mourning the death of her father, Laurel is looking for something or someone to help her make sense of her life. Jack is mysterious and dangerous: Laurel is attracted to him immediately. Her relationship with him leads her on a spiraling descent into the secrets of her life and of those around her. Block, best known for her offbeat Weetzie Bat books, has certainly taken a different tack in her latest work. This is a disturbingly real look at life in the fast lane. Laurel and her friends grapple with the demons of real life (i.e., drugs, sex, death) with harsh consequences. Tarot cards figure prominently as metaphorical devices in each chapter. This is a book likely to meet with not a few censorship challenges. For mature readers, though, it offers a riveting read.
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up-Laurel, who was named for the canyon, doesn't eat. Her father has just died of cancer; now her mother cooks and cleans in a frenzy and moths follow her (the spirit of her husband, like in One Hundred Years of Solitude). Laurel thinks of herself as the Hanged Man, the tarot symbol meaning ``Renunciation. Self-deprivation. Suspended in illusion...Self-poisoning. Also, resurrection.'' She is punishing herself for the incestual relationship she had with her father, and for loving him in spite of it. She smokes to lose flesh. She wants to change, to be pure and free ``like some fairy thing.'' At the same time, she wants to have a woman's body and wishes her period would come back. Her lover, Jack, and her friend, Claudia, try to help her-the three of them even sleep together-but in the end it's she who resurrects herself, and her mother who shares the flood of her pain. Her period returns, and she is seized with the desire to paint and to live. Block's prose moves like a heroin trip through the smog and wet heat, heavy flowers, and velvet grunge of Hollywood. Readers will see themselves in Laurel's dreams and be excited by the strange, yet familiar possibilities there; and they'll want fiercely, like her, to create, to dance on the beach, to have visions, to make love, and to love themselves for who they are. This is serious life Block is writing about-it's raw, hellish, heavenly, and real.-Vanessa Elder, School Library Journal

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780064408325
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/28/1999
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
1,443,727
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Moon

At first I think he looks like a skull, like he is wearing a skull mask.

Because somehow the dark glasses look concave like sockets and his face is so thin and white. I think about the skulls they paint in Mexico for the Day of the Dead-little skulls and dangling, dancing skeletons everywhere. He is junky-thin but still bulky around the shoulders and arms, muscley, the way the muscles stay intact after the junk's worn away at the flesh. And he is wonderfully white in the fluorescence of the hospital waiting room.He looks up from his book and nods at me. Then he says hello and his voice is the best thing-it cracks like ice when you pour the liquor over.

"You've been here a long time," he says. I guess it's easy to tell I haven't slept-my clothes are wrinkled and I can feel the shadowy cloud pressing around my eyes.

"I've lost count."

"Why're you here?"

"My father."

I think of my father in the room down the hall-what is supposed to still be my father. Gaping, hooked up with tubes. My mother still not believing, still speaking to him, pleading. As if that was still him. When I look at what is supposed to still be him, I can't remember anything. The way his eyes are the color of the bronze women he made when he was young. The way he used to take splinters out of my hands. Make pancakes shaped like animals. Press his mouth against me, warming my skin with his breath.

"I hate this waiting. Here. It feels sick. You start wishing it would be over with," I say.

"You probably need a break," the man says. "To drive to the beach. Get some air at least."

I notice that his lips are full, different from the rest ofhis face.

Maybe it is his voice. Or that hospitals are supposed to make people horny. Or that it's the biggest rebound of my life with my father in there dying. But I wish this man would come over to me and press his mouth to my mouth and hold the balls of my shoulders, hold them as if he could crush them to splinters in his hands.

"I better get back," I say, standing up.

"What's your name?"

I tell him Laurel and he says, "Jack."

"I'll see you, Laurel," he says and his voice is full in his throat as if he has said something else, something more.

I go down the hall that is quiet except for a cough and these liquid sounds. My mother is standing outside of my father's room with her face in her hands. The doctor is saying something to her.

My mother feels like a marionette made of string and wood as I lead her out of the hospital and into the heat.

There are black birds hunched in the oleander bushes. As we drive home, we pull up next to a truck with metal bars. Inside, something roars, some caged thing pacing, lashing its tail.

We drive up the canyon under the Hollywood sign. It used to say Hollywoodland like Alice in Wonder or Disney but now it just says Hollywood as in wood of hollys. Or Holy Wood. I think people have tried to leap off of it and die, or is that just in books?

Below the canyon stretches out like an umbilical cord to the belly of the city and up we go past the Spanish-style apartments where the girl got raped last week, some man prowling outside her pink stucco walls while she lay on her bed. Broke the glass. Past the canyon market where I worked last summer, packing bags full of yogurts, avocados, peaches, and wine for the canyon people-the long-haired, junky musicians from My Animal and Shocks and Struts, the beautiful lesbian models Rebecca and Sophie, shaved punk kids, artists in paint-spattered clothes and bone jewelry, film types in cowboy boots and jeans carrying scripts. Past the cafe -they all hang out there too-where Claudia and I drink coffee (mine black, hers sugary and milky brown) and smoke at the window booth with the sun dusting in like some kind of drug we want to put in our noses and mouths and veins.

And up where it winds toward the crest of the hill, past the old stone castles, Spanish villas, Moroccan palaces, gabled fairy-tale cottages-all built for movie stars a long time ago. Charlie Chaplin's house that was a fancy whorehouse after that. And the house where Victoria and her daughter, Perdita, and Victoria's various boyfriends all live. It's covered with hibiscus in front and the blue glass windows must make Perdita feel like she is in some kind of a fish tank.

Tucked in the hills is the lake where the runners circle, passing the rusty metal tubing I have nightmares about, going over the bridge with the carved lion heads and the water below getting sucked down into a whirlpool drain.At the top of the canyon are our two houses-Claudia and her mother, Eva's palace and our house. Both of them under the Hollywood sign looking down over the stretch of canyon to the mother belly city like children attached to an old cord.

We live in a house with a tower. The man who built it was a toymaker; he carved the faces over the fireplace and planted the vines that cover the walls and the oleander in the garden. It smells like cedar and eucalyptus, smoke and lavender in this house. There are things everywhere: books, shells, fossils, dried flowers, bird skulls, the antique wooden cherub, the miniature stone sphinx, ivory monkeys, the brass menorah, china dolls with little teeth, the ancient Roman tear vessel that came from a tomb'-hat looks like a fossilized tear itself; the three bronze women stand erect. My father made them before I was born.

The Hanged Man. Copyright � by Francesca Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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