Pacific

Pacific

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by Tom Drury
     
 

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In a triumphant return to the characters that launched his career two decades ago, Tom Drury travels back to Grouse County, the setting of his landmark debut, The End of Vandalism. Drury’s depictions of the stark beauty of the Midwest and the futility of American wanderlust have earned him comparisons to Raymond Carver, Sherwood Anderson, and PaulSee more details below

Overview


In a triumphant return to the characters that launched his career two decades ago, Tom Drury travels back to Grouse County, the setting of his landmark debut, The End of Vandalism. Drury’s depictions of the stark beauty of the Midwest and the futility of American wanderlust have earned him comparisons to Raymond Carver, Sherwood Anderson, and Paul Auster.

When fourteen-year-old Micah Darling travels to Los Angeles to reunite with the mother who deserted him seven years ago, he finds himself out of his league in a land of magical freedom. He does new drugs with new people, falls in love with an enchanting but troubled equestrienne named Charlotte, and gets thrown out of school over the activities of a club called the New Luddites.

Back in the Midwest, an ethereal young woman comes to Stone City on a mission that will unsettle the lives of everyone she meets—including Micah’s half-sister, Lyris, who still fights fears of abandonment after a childhood in foster care, and his father, Tiny, a petty thief. An investigation into the stranger’s identity uncovers a darkly disturbed life, as parallel narratives of the comic and tragic, the mysterious and everyday, unfold in both the country and the city.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Daniel Handler
I like [Drury's] oddball but easygoing rhythm…I like his take on the everyday vernacular…which he often moves into contexts that feel wrong but fit right…I like his occasional bouts of absurdity…that often bump up against something deep and abstract. I like the specificity of his eye…that grounds his more far-flung stretches…Drury gives us the wondrous and engaging stuff of real storytelling, of actual inquiry and investigation into the haunting and jokey puzzles of the world, at a time when so much literature stops short of invoking something larger or spends so much time touting grand themes that it forgets to make something happen. Pacific is a terrific book, and a strange one, as strange as the world and the great literature that helps us make our way through it.
Publishers Weekly
Loneliness and fantasy bend reality in Drury’s thin new work (after The Driftless Area), which returns readers to the world and characters of his much-celebrated 1994 novel The End of Vandalism. In the opening pages, Micah Darling, the son of casual thief Tiny, is taken by his TV actress mother Joan out of his small Midwestern town to live in Los Angeles. He soon makes friends with a set of privileged teenage drug enthusiasts and falls in love, like everybody else, with the beautiful but anguished Charlotte. “It’s like a law of nature. Gravity, then Charlotte,” says one, sardonically. Back in the Midwest, meanwhile, PI Dan Norman is on the trail of conman Jack Snow, whose forgeries of Celtic artifacts have led him to a thousand-year-old stone found in a dead man’s hand in a bog in Ireland. As the investigation wears on, the lives of local residents are roiled when a mysterious and unhinged young woman arrives on a mission to recover the ancient Celtic stone. Cutting between decadent Los Angeles teenagers and weary smalltown men and women, all of whom struggle with loneliness and aimless desire, the two disjointed plot lines never really intersect. Still, uncanny dialogue, deadpan humor, a few morbid twists, and a considerable amount of quirk make for an engaging read. Agent: The Wylie Agency. (May)
From the Publisher

—A New York Times Editors' Choice
—A San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book
—An Amazon.com Best Book of the Month

"I like [Drury's] oddball but easygoing rhythm. . . . I like his occasional bouts of absurdity. . . . All great books are strange. Every lasting work of literature since the very weird Beowulf has been strange, not only because it grapples with the strangeness around us, but also because the effect of originality is startling, making even the oldest books feel like brand-new stories. . . . Drury overlays the grand and mythic with the specific and everyday, giving ordinary moments the majesty of legend. . . . [He] gives us the wondrous and engaging stuff of real storytelling, of actual inquiry and investigation into the haunting and jokey puzzles of the world, at a time when so much literature stops short of invoking something larger or spends so much time touting grand themes that it forgets to make something happen. Pacific is a terrific book, and a strange one, as strange as the world and the great literature that helps us make our way through it."—Daniel Handler, The New York Times Book Review

"Drury gives his characters the sharpest dialogue I've read in some time. He's interested in people, their odd decisions and their strange perceptions about everyday things. . . . Drury never loses focus. . . . Each new character [he] introduces plucks an intricate web, and the reverberations are felt far and wide. On the surface, Pacific is a disarmingly plain tale about people managing loss. But look closer, and you'll see it's as deep as the ocean it's named after."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Elegant, simple prose . . . Drury's fiction is chockablock with . . . tiny epics unfurling and resolving in quick, universally funny vignettes. In Pacific, these center around the characters from his debut, The End of Vandalism, certainly among the funniest, most humane American novels of the last quarter-century. . . . The philosophy in [his] fiction resides somewhere between humanism and absurdism. . . . [Pacific] has a Hollywood audition scene as unsettling, absurd, and deadpan as anything in Sunset Boulevard . . . [and a] pitch-perfect satire of a [student activist group] worthy of Wet Hot American Summer."—The Boston Globe

"There are novels you read to find out what happens next, and novels you read to linger in the moment. Tom Drury's new book, Pacific, falls squarely in the second category. . . . [Written with] sharp observations and deadpan wit."—NPR

"The reader never sees where Drury is headed with his story, which is what makes his stories so fresh and satisfying and unlike other authors. His novels are reminiscent of the films of David Lynch, with a touch of author Haruki Murakami thrown in. . . . Reading him makes one feel more human. That's the beauty of Drury. . . . You read Drury to linger in the world he has created and marvel at the weird and wonderful characters that inhabit it."— World-Herald (Omaha)

"Some writers are good at drawing a literary curtain over reality, and splashing upon the curtain all colors of their fancies. And then there are the writers who raise the veil and lead us to see for the first time. Tom Drury belongs to the latter, and is a rare master at the art of seeing. Reading Pacific makes me once again fall in love with Drury’s words, and his perception of a world that is full of dangers and passions and mysteries and graces."—Yiyun Li

"A fine percussive beat sweeps the reader along . . . The always fresh perspective of this one-of-a-kind writer will have you responding like his character who 'laughed with surprise in her heart."—Kirkus Reviews

"Uncanny dialogue, deadpan humor, a few morbid twists, and a considerable amount of quirk make [Pacific] an engaging read."—Publishers Weekly

"As in his previous masterful novels, Drury weaves carefully metered sentences, deeply felt scenes, and struggling characters into an endlessly entertaining tapestry of human comedy and small-town living."—Booklist

"Poetic, clever, and concise . . . Drury-ese [is] a language that exists mostly in dialogue and description, a dry bed of humor built on a sturdy rhythm and benevolently wry observation. . . . If The End of Vandalism provided a world for readers to slow down and catch their breath, Pacific is determined to knock it out of them."—New York Observer

"One of the great strengths of Drury's fiction is his ability to suggest the deep funny-sadness of life without sinking to ridicule or bathos. He celebrates quirkiness of speech and habit for its ability to particularize the individual beyond stereotype. Unexpected gestures connect characters and reveal wounds of the heart. . . . Drury invests his characters with a warm-blooded immediacy that demands respect. . . . It's rare to read a novel with so little cliché or convoluted prose, in which the dialogue is both believable and exceptional."—Shelf Awareness

Kirkus Reviews
Getting by, getting over, getting laid: Drury's characters keep busy in his fifth novel, another wild ride. Some of them we've met before in Hunts in Dreams (2000) and The End of Vandalism (1994): Charles, Joan, Lyris and Micah. The action is split among small Midwest towns and Los Angeles. Charles, now known as Tiny, had a plumbing business which has since failed. His ex-wife, Joan, has moved to LA and has a juicy role in a TV show. Stepdaughter Lyris has moved into town to shack up with a young newspaper reporter. Joan re-appears to claim 14-year-old Micah and move him to the coast. She's going to take another stab at this mothering business; or is she just playing a role? These departures leave Tiny in an empty nest. Out of loneliness, he starts stealing boxes from the loading docks of big-box stores. That's kids' stuff compared to Jack Snow's criminal enterprise. Jack is an ex-con shipping fake Celtic artifacts from a warehouse. It's his bad luck to be tracked down by Sandra Zulma, his old childhood playmate. Sandra is now cuckoo, lost in a Celtic fantasy world, but with the single-minded energy of the mad, she is looking for a rock that Jack may own. Also on Jack's trail is Dan, once the sheriff but now working for a detective agency, though he hates the sleaze. He and his wife, Louise, are emblems of decency; their private sorrow is the loss of a daughter at birth. Meanwhile, in LA, Micah is experimenting with drugs and girls, while Joan is making the leap to the big screen and sleeping with the screenwriter. The second half includes a murder and a divorce; Micah, overwhelmed, calls his half sister Lyris, who flies out to help. There's no plot or protagonist, but a fine percussive beat sweeps the reader along. The always fresh perspective of this one-of-a-kind writer will have you responding like his character, who "laughed with surprise in her heart."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802119995
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
05/07/2013
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

PACIFIC

A Novel


By Tom Drury

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Tom Drury
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8021-1999-5


CHAPTER 1

Joan had to find a school for Micah in the fall. She made packets with an eight-by-ten glossy, transcripts, and an essay he'd written. This is how the essay started:

When I was small I survived a tornado that blew the van in which I was a passenger through a silo. The wind was so loud that all the world and its things seemed to be made of sound waves. Tools floated about like you might pick one from the air as an astronaut would in zero gravity. The tornado taught me that you can get in and out of trouble in unexpected ways. I used to have a goat who would knock things over and pin them with her forelegs as if to say, "Now it is mine." My favorite subject is world history. I think it was a bad deal when the citizen farmers were forced to move to Rome where they had nothing to do in the second century.


Joan thought the essay was thoughtful and creative and she appreciated mention of the tornado which they'd gone through together.

She mailed applications to the Weaving School, Adamantine Prep, Mary Ellen Pleasant Country Day, Brentwood Polyphonic, and Our Lady of Good Counsel on the Hill. None of the schools had an opening for Micah. Our Lady of Good Counsel on the Hill put him on a waiting list.

"That sounds promising," said Joan.

They drove up to the school for an interview. The road climbed the foothills and Joan pointed out a section of roadway that had fallen down a ravine across the valley.


One sunny day of so many Micah took a bus west on Sunset Boulevard to see Thea. Palm trees listed south, leaves fluttering in the wind. The Chateau Marmont rose above trees. He knew it was important but not why.

Billboards lined the boulevard—a bottle of tequila lit up like an altar, a watch too complicated to be useful, a man and two women coated in oil and shirtless in lowrider jeans.

Then the bus went down the hill into Beverly Hills, where businesses and billboards gave way to hardwood groves and hedges and walls and pillars.

Thea's place had a mechanical gate with a warning depicting a stick figure pinned between gate and post, limbs splayed in alarm.

Micah walked up the broad and curving driveway, making way for a plumber's truck that was leaving and got Micah thinking of Tiny. His world and this world seemed to occupy different dimensions. Micah was a traveler who had gone between them.

The house was enormous and ornamental as if a government should be in it and Thea met him out front by a fountain with a statue of a headless woman holding an open book.

"So, this is my crib," said Thea.

"How many people live here?"

"Just us four. My dad built it so his family would have a place to gather. But my aunts and uncles built their houses with the same idea. They're in Ojai and La Jolla and north of San Francisco. So now they can't agree where the family should gather."

They walked around to the back gardens, where hedges radiated from a great tree with smooth gray bark and hundreds of branches thick with purple leaves. Hidden in the leaves was a treehouse with glass windows and cedar shakes.

"God damn," said Micah.

They climbed a ladder to the treehouse. It was messy inside. Clothes and books and food wrappers lay wherever Thea had dropped them. Micah began picking things up and organizing them and Thea joined him.

"I spend a lot of time here," she said. "I don't sleep well in the house. The vertical space is oppressive."

The treehouse had a futon, a bumper pool table, a refrigerator, a desk, and a chair. They played pool. Thea leaned over the table, biting her lower lip with her little front teeth. She won the game in no time. Bumper pool was harder than Micah thought.

"Well, I get so much practice," she said. "You'll get better the more you play."

"Then you'll invite me back."

"Of course. As now we are friends."

After the game they sat on the futon and Thea took a dark green tin in her lap, opened it, and rolled a joint. She lit up and inhaled, waving her hand beside her throat.

"What do you think of Charlotte?" she said.

"Is she in those Boston shoe ads?"

"Yeah. Hold it in."

Micah held his breath. "I like the one when they're on a boat," he said in a deep voice.

"I want you to think about something. Charlotte's going around with people who aren't good for her. They drink all the time, and the only reason they follow her is ... well, you know how she looks."

"Yeah, beautiful," said Micah. "You both are."

Her ears turned red, just like that. "I'm not Charlotte."

"You're very pretty, in my opinion."

She looked at him sadly, as if trying to arrange the thousand and one things he didn't know into a manageable list.

"Have you ever asked anybody out?"

"Sure," said Micah. "Well, not really."

"I want you to ask Charlotte out."

"Isn't she kind of old for me?"

"How old are you?"

"Fourteen."

"Hmmm." Thea was quiet, and Micah thought she might forget the whole idea.

"That is young," she said. "But I saw how she looked at you, Micah. She really cared about you, making sure your high was okay. That was the old Charlotte."

"Where would I ask her out to?"

"It's not a big thing. Just say you'll get some coffee."

Micah agreed and Thea hugged him. He climbed down from the treehouse, walked out the way they had come, opened the gate, and waited half an hour for a bus.

The lights were coming on over Sunset and people sat talking in restaurants that spilled onto the sidewalks. Hollywood pigeons strolled the globe of the Cinerama Dome.


Eamon was typing on a laptop and watching History's Mysteries in the family room when Micah got home. The TV showed an aerial view of a metal warehouse among trees.

"Soon sounds of hammering and sawing begin to emanate from their headquarters," said the narrator.

"What is this?" said Micah.

"I don't know. World War II something or other."

Eamon muted the television. The scene cut to two men sitting at a table covered with blueprints. They seemed elated over whatever they were building.

"Did you ever go out with Charlotte?" said Micah.

"Sophomore year."

"What happened?"

"We stopped."

"How come?"

"We just did. Why?"

Micah sat down and retied the laces of his sneakers. "I was thinking of asking her to have coffee."

"Everybody falls in love with Charlotte. It's like a law of nature. Gravity, then Charlotte."

"It's not love. It's coffee. Thea said I should."

"You're a big coffee drinker, huh?"

"No. I hate it."

"Have latte. But now, Thea told you. This is interesting. Where did you see Thea?"

"At her treehouse."

"Really." Eamon gave Micah a little push. "You're just the latest thing, aren't you?"


Early every morning Joan ran in the park. She did not wear earphones but heard music in her head, Ode to Joy or Alegria or The Munsters Theme. One day at the soccer field she saw a young woman sleeping on the grass. Coming closer, she realized that it was Charlotte Mann.

Charlotte wore a short black dress, one red shoe, and a black leather jacket with rawhide fringe and brass studs. She was asleep on an orange blanket in the grass. Joan covered her legs and touched her shoulder.

Charlotte sat up and looked around and scratched the back of her head with both hands. Unbraided, her hair fell in waves to her shoulders.

"Well, this is embarrassing," she said.

She got up, took the blanket by two corners, and gave it a shake. Cigarettes and a lighter shot from the blanket. She walked toward them, crooked on one shoe.

"What happened?" said Joan.

Charlotte flopped down, took the shoe off, lit a cigarette, and blew a smoke ring. "What time is it?"

"Twenty after seven."

"What day is it?"

"Tuesday."

"Do you see my phone?"

Joan looked around. "How did you get here?"

"I don't remember. We were at a house and then we were at a club. Then maybe a house again. Or that might have been the first house. People kept stepping on my ankles. Maybe I'll stay here till someone comes."

"No one is coming. It's morning."

"They might be driving ever so slowly."

"Charlotte. Honey. Wake up. You can't be doing this to yourself."

They walked across the soccer field. Wearing the blanket like a shawl, Charlotte dropped the mateless shoe into a trash can.

"I'm sorry you found me this way."

"You don't have to worry about your place with me," said Joan. "I know you. I know what my boys think of you. You have a good heart."

"No I don't. My heart is a mess."


Micah and Charlotte did not go for coffee. Instead she picked him up in a small yellow Datsun pickup and they drove up to Mount Wilson on Angeles Crest Highway. Charlotte wore khaki shorts, green sneakers, and a pink tank top with a border of shiny green stones against her copper skin.

The mountain road climbed, steep with switchbacks. Rocks had fallen in the roadway, and Charlotte cranked the wheel, steering carefully around them. The sky was deep blue, with lavender clouds around faraway peaks.

A famous observatory stood on top of the mountain, white domes rising from forests with pinecones big as footballs. Charlotte knew all about the place. George Hale had worked here, and Edwin Hubble. Observations of the sun gave way to observations of all space. Einstein came up to talk things over. The universe expanded.

Micah and Charlotte looked at Hubble's chair in the gloomy vault of the Hooker Telescope while listening to a recording by someone named Hugh Downs. The chair appeared to have been borrowed from the Hubbles' dining room table.

"Imagine being Hubble," said Charlotte.

"I can't. He's too smart."

"It's late, it's cold. You write down this number, you turn some dial, you write down another number."

"Something doesn't add up."

"The things you are learning are going to turn this world upside down."

They were quiet then. Breathing quickly, Charlotte ran her hands beneath her hair and lifted it back over her shoulders. They walked down with the voice of Hugh Downs fading in the stairwell.

They ate at the Cosmic Cafe in a wooded pavilion between the observatory and the parking lot. Charlotte drove past a cluster of communications towers and a little way down the mountain before stopping at a turnout.

A dusty trail took them along the mountain wall, where they sat cross-legged on a flat rock projecting over nothing. Someone had run a power line out here on scarred poles, but the line stopped and there was one last pole in the sand with nothing attached to it.

"Look at that," said Micah.

Charlotte stared at the column of sky, drawing her knees up and wrapping her arms around them. "Would you mind if I bit you on the arm?" she said.

"Is this a hypothetical question?"

"I wouldn't break the skin."

"Why?"

"I don't know. Sometimes I just get nervous and have to bite something. Do you know what I mean?"

"Do it to yourself how you would do it."

She raised her forearm to her mouth and bit. Her eyes opened wide. Then she presented her arm and they examined it together. Slowly the pale white of teeth marks turned the lion-mane color of her skin.

"Are you afraid it will hurt?" she said.

"Does it?"

She shrugged. "Some?"

Micah rolled the sleeve of his work shirt above the elbow and brushed off his arm.

"Do you want to?" she said.

"Can't be that bad."

"Good man! I'm so excited." She gathered her hair in an elastic band, settled beside him, and took his arm in both hands, drawing the two of them shoulder to shoulder.

"Now you say when to stop," she said.

"Okay."

She bent her head and closed her eyes. At first Micah felt only the warmth of her mouth and the softness of her lips.

Her teeth closed, gathering a cord of flesh. It didn't hurt much at first, and then he felt the pressure inside his arm. He saw that it would be easy to play this game till blood was drawn.

Charlotte opened her mouth when she realized he would not call it off. Her teeth had left an oval of perfect dashes, inside of which the hair on his arm was swirled and wet. His arm cooled as it dried.

He looked at her and saw that she had tears in her eyes and realized that he did too. Maybe the bite had hurt more than he thought and maybe it was something else. They leaned their faces one toward the other without thinking and kissed for a long time.

This was Micah's first kiss, and he knew he would remember it all his life. When it was over they sat with their hands on the hot flat rock and legs stretched before them.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from PACIFIC by Tom Drury. Copyright © 2013 Tom Drury. Excerpted by permission of Grove/Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Some writers are good at drawing a literary curtain over reality, and splashing upon the curtain all colors of their fancies. And then there are the writers who raise the veil and lead us to see for the first time. Tom Drury belongs to the latter, and is a rare master at the art of seeing. Reading Pacific makes me once again fall in love with Drury’s words, and his perception of a world that is full of dangers and passions and mysteries and graces.”—Yiyun Li

"A fine percussive beat sweeps the reader along . . . The always fresh perspective of this one-of-a-kind writer will have you responding like his character who 'laughed with surprise in her heart."—Kirkus Reviews

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