Tuesday, January 16, 2007

King streetcar; slush, slush and a short turn.

Caucasian male, mid 50s, shaggy white hair, wearing a black aviator jacket, tweed cap and Columbia Bugabootoo boots. The streetcar fills, backpacks and bulky coats rubbing against his face. He takes it in stride turning toward the window. That's when I see his bookmark held to the back of the book, an old Polaroid.

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole (Grove/Atlantic)

Page 195:

Behind the bathroom door Ignatius was lying passively in the tepid water pushing the plastic soap dish back and forth across the surface with one finger and listening now and then to his mother on the telephone. Occasionally he held the soap dish down until it filled with water and sank. Then he would feel for it on the bottom of the tub, empty it, and sail it again.

The kitchen is small; the chestnut brown refrigerator so close to the back door people coming in or leaving would have to wait if someone decided they needed a snack. The windows are sheered with translucent polka dot drapes, hand sewn across the top and bottom. Chimes hang on the burnt orange wall. A potted ivy sits atop the fridge in a plastic burgundy planter.

She stands, one hand on her hip, holding a long menthol cigarette between the tips of her index and middle fingers, freshly lit. Her foot is up on a chair, her other hand supporting the weight of her pose, Bettie Page, bent over, mud brown skirt slit suggestively up the side to expose her knee, some thigh and the promise of more. She wears mustard yellow, v-neck, sleeveless top, tan marks cutting across her upper arms and along her chest. Her hair is long and blonde, curly poodle planks and straight across bangs. Her lips are bright red, parted in a sneer, baring her lower teeth. Her horn-rimmed glasses reflect the flash of the camera bulb but you can see she's looking up to her left as if directed. Likethis? she grits through frozen features. It's hard to tell if she was caught off guard or if she thinks this is sexy. It's hard to tell if the photographer caught her off guard or if he thinks this is sexy. It's hard to tell if they wish they'd never taken the picture.

I flip the Polaroid over.

"Aunt Mary-Lynn. Match Game audition pic."

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

It makes me happy to know that people are reading in public but it makes me happy-plus to read of the reading of this book in particular.

Julie Wilson said...

I don't put any pressure on myself to read even a fraction of all the books in the world, but, this one, I'll admit, I feel a bit ashamed that I haven't gotten around to yet. One of the things I love about this project is going to the bookstore and getting to sample all these authors and genres. I think I stood in the aisle for a good fifteen minutes flipping through "Dunces" and I simply couldn't find a poor passage. The voices are so flavorful! I can see why people are so attached to it.

jayemtee said...

... that and the remarkable story behind it's publication.