- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
In Martin and John, Dale Peck weaves together two sets of stories to create a haunting, heartrending portrait of an artist in our time. The first is told episodically by John, a hustler in New York, who falls in love with Martin, a man dying of AIDS. Interwoven with these stories is a second set, in which characters named Martin and John appear, but living different lives. The resulting novel is a work of stunning originality that is "inspired and brilliant" (The Nation)....
Ships from: Villanova, PA
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
Ships from: Miami, FL
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
Ships from: Ottawa, Canada
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
In Martin and John, Dale Peck weaves together two sets of stories to create a haunting, heartrending portrait of an artist in our time. The first is told episodically by John, a hustler in New York, who falls in love with Martin, a man dying of AIDS. Interwoven with these stories is a second set, in which characters named Martin and John appear, but living different lives. The resulting novel is a work of stunning originality that is "inspired and brilliant" (The Nation).
This is not the worst thing I remember: coming home from school one day to find my mother in a chair, collapsed. Her skin was the color of wet ashes, her head sat like a stone on her right shoulder, and a damp bloody mass pushed at hercrotch, staining a maroon patch of darkness on sky-blue pants. Her legs were spread wide, and more blood, pooling on the yellow vinyl of the chair, showed up like the red speck in a spoiled egg yolk. Her arms were open too, and rested on the chair arms, and she seemed both empty and full, like a tubeof toothpaste squeezed from the middle. When I walked into the room, I was ten years old, and the sound her blood made as it dropped to the floor filled my ears. Is she still alive? I remember thinking, and then, when I noticed the slow, small movements of her chest, I thought, She still isn't dead. I raninto the living room then, where I called my father, and I waited for him on the couch, shivering. Not seeing her was worse than seeing her, for I imagined her, imagined the mound that had been building in her abdomen for months.
It had grown even as the rest of her body had shrunk, until she seemed nothing more than a skeleton covered by the thin fabric of clothing and skin. just a skeleton, and that hard mound at her center, which my father sometimes ran his hands over as though testing a melon for ripeness. For years I saw that melon drop from my mother's body again and again, pushing at the seam of her pants in a mess of blood and guts and lost life. Not the baby's-my mother's.
This story started before I was aware of it. Though two people were in a position to tell it, they wereboth, I believe, unable to speak. How could my mother, a housewife who remembered her high school graduation as a severe bout of morning sickness, sit me on her lap and say, "John, your father is killing me," when speaking would reveal at least some level of complicity on her part? And how could my father, a construction worker who lucked into a lot of money when he opened his own company, sit me down and say, "John, all we can do is wait for her to die," when he knew it was his fault she was dying? So no one said anything-I wasn't even told my mother had miscarried, and no attempt was made to explain why I'd found her sitting in her own blood. In time my father referred to it as if I knew what had happened. "When your mother lost the baby," he'd say, as if she'd set it down, forgotten where. Other things were set down with that baby, forgotten, and one of them was the woman who bore it: my mother, whose black-and-white past was obliterated by that technicolor moment in the kitchen. A too-bright image superimposed itself on a dark one and only occasionally could a piece of that hidden picture reveal itself.
Over time I learned that my mother's miscarriage was the product of a muscle disorder that lay dormant for years, waiting for something like the strain of bearing a baby to flare up. Someone once told me she'd been ill after my birth, but when I asked my father about it he only said, "You got out Of the hospital before she did." Now, looking back, this and a half dozen other signals pop up like road signs pointing to her illness. She was always dropping things: glasses held in both her hands still managed to slip to the floor, and forkfuls of food spilled to her lap on the way to her mouth. If she was tired this got worse, and sometimes, late at night, her speech became slurred, though she never drank with my father. When she got pregnant, her deterioration accelerated. My father joked it off. "Rosemary," he'd say-her name was Beatrice-"and her baby," and on the last word he'd rub the mound of her stomach. My mother never laughed at this, I noticed at once, but it took me a while to see that my father didn't either. She'd turn back to what she was doing, cooking dinner maybe, or copying a recipe from a magazine. Years later, a flip through her card file revealed the definite progression of her disease: her handwriting started out smooth and rolling, and then in the years just before she miscarried it began to jumble about frantically like the lines of an EKG. And then gradually, inevitably, it became as flat as stagnant water.
In a way, all I know now is all I knew then: that she suffered from a progressive muscle disorder which destroyed her motor control and left her a quadriplegic, unable to walk or speak or hold her head up; this disease actually killed her when she was forty-four years old, but for the last twelve years of her life she was in a facility on the eastern edge of Long Island, a hospice, while my father and I lived fifteen hundred miles away in Kansas, and it often seems like she died when she was only thirty-two. She was twenty-nine when she came home from the hospital for the first time, in a wheelchair. This eventually gave way to a whining electric one, but at the time she was too weak to work a joystick and had to be pushed around by my father. When I heard the car in the driveway that day, my first impulse was to hide, but I forced myself into the living room just as the front door slammed open. All I saw was my father's shadowy form, huge, hulking, framed by late-afternoon light, leaning over my mother. At first I thought she'd fallen...Martin and John. Copyright © by Dale Peck. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted November 13, 2003
Dale Peck has made a name for himself by writing vicious reviews of highly praised authors like Rick Moody, Don Delillo and even Charles Dickens in the pages of the New Republic. Of course, when it comes to writing bad reviews of books, egos will be hurt. Peck has proven himself to be an adept reviewer finding problems in books that are often over-praised. The problem with Peck comes with his own callous, hubris-filled view of himself. He has stated to the New York Times that his books are perhaps the best that the last decade has had to offer; an inspection into his work would prove this horribly false. Martin and John is a near- incomprehensible story about two men named Martin and John that may really be a whole bunch of people named Martin and John. Peck's novel comes off as a creative writing student trying to hard to be brilliant, and ultimately he fails. Maybe Mr. Peck should rethink his own self-appraisal and work on his convoluted plots. He is a talented stylist, but if only it made sense.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.