Join cult favorite Tony Vigorito in his acclaimed, surreal whirlwind of a novel exploring chaos theory. A prisoner spins a playing card into a somersault, stirring a wind that becomes a tornado that takes off the roof of a church in nearby Normal, Illinois. Elizabeth Wildhack is born in that church and someday she will meet that prisoner, a man named Diablo, on the streets of New Orleanswhere a hurricane-like Great White Spot hovers off the coast. But how is it all interconnected? And what does it have to do with a time-traveling serf and a secret society whose motto is "Walk away?" "Linguistic gymnastics abound... Vigorito demonstrates once again that he's a wild stylist... startlingly original... an entertaining anarchist..."The Chicago Sun-Times
|Publisher:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
TONY VIGORITO’s first novel, Just a Couple of Days, is a cult classic that was republished by Harcourt in 2007. His following novels helped earn him acclaim for his satirical style. A former professor who earned a Ph.D. at Ohio State University and taught social theory at Ohio University and Antioch College, he now lives in Austin, Texas. Visit www.TonyVigorito.com.
Read an Excerpt
The Fourth Knot: Synchronicity Storm
1 The morning the Day-Glo orange Frisbee came whizzing out of the eye of the storm was the morning a runaway serf dared a dreamer to untie the fourth and final knot on a ratty strip of leather. The dreamer accepted the dare and untied the knot, and life would never be the same.
The morning the Day-Glo orange Frisbee came whizzing out of the eye of the storm was the day Dave Wildhack colored his kitchen wall with an old box of crayons. Afterward, it would finally dawn on him what his late wife had meant by her last words.
The morning the Day-Glo orange Frisbee came whizzing out of the eye of the storm was the morning Special Agent J. J. Speed woke up in his hotel room to find a grandfather clock lying in bed next to him. Later that same day, he would encounter a simulacrum of himself, completely and unabashedly naked, gallumping on a donkey around the streets of New Orleans.
The morning the Day-Glo orange Frisbee came whizzing out of the eye of the storm was the day that Diablo was seduced by his goddaughter. It was a daring and lovely match of intellect and wit, although it would take two tornadoes and a crusader's cajoling to convince Diablo to open his heart.
The morning the Day-Glo orange Frisbee came whizzing out of the eye of the storm was the day that Elizabeth Wildhack quit her job as a stripper. This would vex her afternoon clientele considerably, particularly an obstetrician-gynecologist by the name of Dr. Rip Blossom, although Elizabeth only knew him by various aliases, and knew nothing of his profession. His is a sad and pathetic story, and one we hope not to dwell upon at length, although at this point in the telling we must warn you that anything is possible.
And anything is indeed possible. A world containing phenomena as astounding as tornadoes should never be underestimated for its ability to startle one's expectations.CHAPTER 2
The Second Knot: A Brisk Wind
Twenty-Five Years Earlier
2 Twenty-five years before the Day-Glo orange Frisbee came whizzing out of the eye of the storm, Bridget Snapdragon was stung by a bee.
Bridget Snapdragon's legal name was Bridget Wilson, but as far as she was concerned, her last name was and always would be Snapdragon. Regrettably, Bridget Snapdragon died nine months after that bumblebee pricked the sunburned skin of her left butt cheek.
Bridget Snapdragon lived in Normal, Illinois, a midsized college and insurance town an hour south of Chicago. Bridget found residing in a place with the awelessness to call itself Normal to be a troubling circumstance. After all, though Catholic by heritage, Bridget Snapdragon fancied herself pagan. She fancied herself many things, but alien, outlaw, and pagan were her favorite and most frequent secret identities. Normalcy, in other words, was no aspiration of hers.
On the other hand, her husband, Dave, was a gainfully employed actuary who kept a well-organized basement. Dave thought his wife's imagination charming initially, then peculiar, and ultimately dangerous. He expressed his fears and misgivings to their pastor, Father J. J. Speed, one Sunday afternoon over hot dogs at a church picnic. Father J. J. Speed chewed his toothpick, which was a perpetual presence on his lips, and though he couldn't care less about Dave's problems, he nodded in feigned compassion.
"The feminine mind," Father J. J. Speed explained, "is particularly vulnerable to such ominous whimsy. You don't have to be ordained to understand the role of Eve in Adam's fall from grace. Women are more susceptible to temptation, and are apt to seduce men into evil as well." He deftly snatched his toothpick out of his mouth before biting into his hot dog.
"What should I do?"
"Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone." Father J. J. Speed swallowed hard and continued. "And remember, you're her husband. It's your responsibility to see her through her temptations." He grabbed Dave earnestly by the shoulder, thinking all the while how satisfying it would be to slap the crap out of him. Jeezus gawd, how he loathed his panty waist parishioners. "Pray for her, Dave."
And so he did. In fact, shortly thereafter, while Dave knelt praying in their front room, Bridget scampered off into the woods behind their home. A sizable creek chattered through the woods and was large enough to form a swimming hole at the base of some mild rapids. Bridget liked to pretend she was a wild woman of the woods — a sylvan maenad, she determined — and on this particular day she decided to go skinny-dipping. She stripped down to her panties and bra under the cover of the low-hanging branches of a nearby willow tree. After peering around for other people, furtively at first and then warily as she fell into character, she tore off her undergarments and skedoodled twenty paces across the rock and shale until she splashed gasping into the cold water.
Bridget was soon floating lazily on her back, breasts bobbing the surface like apples in a Halloween barrel, ears underwater listening to the muffled waterfall. Her bronze hair drifted free of constraint, billowing like a jellyfish in the lusty currents of the water, and her imagination stirred. "Hoodly-doodly," she sang out. Her voice chimed hollow and distant in her submerged ears, as it might sound to one's spirit unshackled from the flesh. "Doinkery-dinkerydick," she snickered, attempting to summon a spontaneity of song. In Bridget's mind, glossolalia was the proper language in which to cast a spell, though she rarely had a specific purpose in mind, and knew she had never really attained the flawless abandon that constitutes the diction of the Holy Spirit. On this day, however, after a few more false starts and self-conscious stumbles, she achieved a perfect and poetic nonsense:
She laughed loud a few beats after triumph, loud enough to attract the attention of a terribly sad twenty-year-old man desperately trying to stroll through the woods. His name, or the nickname with which his unit had tagged him, was Diablo. For reasons that have no place next to a naked woman at play, Diablo could not accomplish this supposedly pleasant endeavor. I'm taking a walk in the woods, he kept reassuring himself, but it was having neither the calming nor the grounding effect that kitchen calendars so often suggest that it will. No, Diablo's consciousness was a cold observer once removed from the ape in combat fatigues trudging along the trail. He was out of his head, and he was scared to death of life.
But all of this disappeared the moment Diablo's ears caught a whiff of the outspoken and mellifluent music glancing through the trees. He snapped immediately present, and the psychopathic cacophony he had been nurturing in his head like a cracked rotten egg fell suddenly silent. Indeed, he would realize upon reflection that it was the first time in years that he'd felt like something as straightforward as himself.
Diablo followed the melody toward the creek, but it ended before he could zero in on its source. He paused, holding his breath, silent and perfectly still, goose bumps popping all over his skin, then nearly leapt out of his sweat at the eruption of wild, fierce, and benevolent laughter that burst out less than twenty-five feet from where he stood. Acting only on an instinct of childish curiosity, he crept forward to the tree line of the creek. There, he was greeted with a scene of such majestic sensuality that enchantment was his only possible reaction.
And how could it be otherwise, trailing as it did the accidental spell pronounced so playfully by Bridget Snapdragon? But here all agnostics must pause and murmur. "Yes, but was it really a spell?" Perhaps not, or at least no more than we are really who we think we are. Skepticism is commendable, but it can be as blinding as faith, and sometimes such assertions destroy the experience and undermine the immanence of our story, which is to say, the significance of our existence, and this is precisely the realm Diablo inhabited before stumbling into the watershed moment of his life. We do what we do because of who we think we are, or who we think we ought to be. Bridget Snapdragon thought she cast a spell, and so for all intents and purposes, she did.
And she really did. Nine months later no one in her church could doubt it, though she never told a soul.
3 Moments passed before Diablo noticed a pulsating purr complementing his vision. Several more passed before Diablo realized the throbbing thrum was not the background hum of the ecstatic universe, but rather the drone of a very large bee buzzing laps around his crown. His trance vanished with an irate swat, which solidly whapped the insect and sent it spiraling drunkenly away. Moments later, Bridget Snapdragon, who had been gliding across the surface of the pool on her stomach and pretending to be a water pixie, yelped and frantically splashed to her feet, one hand on her rump and the other clawing its way out of the water. "Ouch, ouch, ouch," she gasped in ever-louder cries, whimpering in between breaths. Once out of the water she began to run but slipped on the slick shale, falling gracelessly sideways but catching herself with the hand that had been clutching her posterior. Her tumble jolted Diablo out of his stupefaction over witnessing the inadvertent consequences of his irritation. He reanimated his slackened jaw and would have hailed an offer of help if Bridget had not leapt up from her spill, burst into a panicked bawl, and broken into a full-speed adrenal flight into the trees.
"Oh shit," Diablo swore, half-mortified and half-amused, because, let's face it, people look funny when they stumble, especially if they're without permanent injury and stark naked besides. After Bridget disappeared from sight, he called out a not-too-loud apology, sincerely sorry but helplessly elated. He swallowed his grin, shook his head, and caught sight of her abandoned red blouse beneath the willow tree across the creek. The least I can do, Diablo reasoned, is get her clothes back to her. He resolved to follow her trail and leave them anonymously on her porch. It seemed a basic kindness, and intoxicated by the purity of his experience, it never occurred to him that she might find this creepy, which, as it turned out, she did not.
As for Bridget, she tore through the trees and the brush like the divine madwoman she so often imagined herself to be. Indeed, as she would exaggerate to herself later, the souls of a thousand maenads were drumming at her heels, and all creatures fled the elemental ferocity of her path, embodying as it did the howling, yowling fury of all that is wild but unfree.
4 Dave Wilson had dozed off while praying for his fallen wife. Toppled sideways from his knees, torso sprawled inelegantly on the surface of the sofa, he would have looked like a fresh corpse to a passerby. Upon closer inspection, however, the passerby might have noticed a telltale bulge stretching the fabric at the top of his left trouser leg. Assuming rigor mortis was not to blame, this had to indicate the fires of Creation still crackling away. In fact, Creation was roaring like a raunchy pagan bonfire. Dave was enraptured by the sort of dream he had experienced more or less annually since he was thirteen, when his mother woke him from an afternoon nap on the sofa with blows from her heirloom hardcover edition of the King James Bible after seeing that his hips were throbbing to a carnal cadence. Despite the rude awakening, he ejaculated uncontrollably, and was beaten the worse for that. It was his first, and to date his last, sexual climax.
This annoyed Dave considerably, though not for the epicurean reasons you might suspect. No, Dave's motives were properly immaculate, for while he desperately desired a child of his own, sexual congress with Bridget was invariably a filibuster. No matter how hard or how long he thrust, he could not find the edge of the waterfall. Bridget, meanwhile, came again and again, thrashing and moaning into her pillow like a banshee in heat and quite horrifying Dave, who feared he was turning his wife into a terrifically lusty sex beastess. Hence, while their lovemaking was famously furious, it was equally infrequent. It was simply impossible for Dave to maintain the illusion of puritanical procreation in the face of his squirming wife's unchaste and unabashed pleasure.
To be sure, Dave knew the pleasures of the flesh. He just didn't enjoy them, at least in retrospect. Nonetheless, the latent hedonism of his body took advantage of any loosening of the gnarled fist of his sexual repression to saturate his brain with forbidden hormones and thereby trigger vivid and wildly absurd fantasies. It was to be expected, really. Repressing a natural urge increases the pressure of the eventual surge, while stubborn naïveté of the unrelenting thrust of existence only succeeds in dilating the boundaries of the imagination.
Thus, the dozen or so naked and oily women who were smothering Dave in their frenzied attempts to experience his manhood simultaneously began screaming like sirens on a roller coaster. Their shrieking stridulation so startled him that he threw himself off the sofa as he kicked awake, just in time to see Bridget, inexplicably stark naked, charge wailing into the room.
"What's happened!?" Dave thundered, frightened, flabbergasted, and floored.
"Help me," Bridget choked through her hyperventilating sobs and pointed at her swollen derriere. "A bee."
"Oh, honey ..."
"It ... stung ... me," she stammered between blubbers.
"Okay, okay." Dave leapt to her side. "It'll be all right." Not yet awake enough to be baffled at her nakedness, his skin merely prickled with a vague awareness that he was helping a damsel in distress. He felt humbly good — chivalrous — as he unbuttoned his shirt and slung it over her shoulders. No matter that his pasty torso lacked the slightest hint of muscle definition. No matter that the only scar he had was a little white dot beneath his armpit where he'd had a mole removed. What mattered was that he felt the archetypal rightness beneath the situation, the valiant courtesy, the gallant nobility. Sure, his swashbuckling swagger stumbled when he couldn't get his last button undone, but he succeeded in the end, and perhaps even lent the scene an element of high drama when he popped the button off after a couple of desperate yanks. He cloaked the frightened woman, and in so doing fulfilled that purpose to which he imagined his whole life to have been directed. He defended. He protected. He provided. This was it, his masculine crescendo, and his performance was extraordinary.
And so it was with perfect clarity that Dave helped his wife to lie facedown on the sofa. Once she was settled, he whispered into her ear that he would be right back, and waited for her fearful but trusting nod to release him. Flawless was his valor as he strode stouthearted into the kitchen, where he fetched an ice pack and a dish towel, then on to the bathroom for some tweezers.
Bridget, meanwhile, lay on the sofa in ponderous exhaustion, breathing heavy but considerably calmed. Dave's tenderness soothed and pleased her, and she solicited seconds by whimpering when he jogged back into the room clutching his improvised surgical tools. "Here we are, honey." Dave genuflected beside his wife and stroked her brow, eliciting a tenuous sigh. "This will take the edge off the swelling." He wrapped the ice pack in the dish towel and moved to place it on her fanny, pausing for a moment to glimpse its tumescence. Bridget sensed his gaze and smiled with her face to the cushions. She moaned ambiguously as she allowed her butt to rise and meet the ice, gasping at the first touch. Dave, suddenly aroused, jerked his hand away with the blind speed of having touched too hot a surface. He turned his head momentarily, then stole a grunting glance.
Good Dave Wilson belonged to that subcategory of men known popularly as the ass man. He delighted in the rump, and this was no small part of the reason why he always sat in the last row of pews at church — he probably could have described in impressive detail the rear end of every woman in his parish if he were thus interrogated. Though he never admitted it to his conscious self, Dave was irresistibly attracted to the gentle but daring slopes of a woman's hips. At any opportunity, his eyes would sneak across the borders of the nearest patootie, stroking it ever so softly with his gaze. Again and again, his eyes swerved unerringly through the slick curves, careening into the danger zone and back like an invincible teenager late for a midnight pottery class. If Dave had not believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible, he may well have entertained the notion that woman was formed not from the scraps of some naked guy's rib, but shaped from the clay of the earth and turned on the wheel of life by a potter both sensual and depraved.
"Baby?" Bridget's voice interrupted his reverie. "Do you think you'll be able to get the stinger out?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Nine Kinds of Naked"
Copyright © 2008 Tony Vigorito.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
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.
Table of Contents
Nine Kinds of Naked,
About the Author,
Connect with HMH,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'll make this short and sweet. The avenue down which the novel heads is unique and lightly touched upon, but it is nonetheless overly sarcastic and dreadfully dull. Just when you think you're going to find out something amazing, Vigorito disappoints by focusing the storyline on his own passionate social/political/humanistic beliefs; which adds nonsensical drivel about unrelated topics like self-respect, freedom and love. The book is all over the place and very hard to get through -- not to mention the horrible lala land fairy tale that coincides with the main story line. I had to skim after page 150 because the book wasn't going anywhere.
One of the best books I've ever read! I highly recommend it!