On his first free day since he was born Samuel sat with a loose girl in a locked bathroom over a teashop, the dirty curtains were drawn, and his hand lay on her thighs. He did not feel any emotion at all. O God, he thought, make me feel something, make me feel as I ought to, here is something happening and I'm cool and dull as a man in a bus. Make me remember all the stories. I caught her in my arms, my heart beat against hers, her body was trembling, her mouth opened like a flower. The lotus of Osiris was opening in the sun.
"Listen to the old birds," she said, and he saw that the hot water was running over the rim of the washbasin.
I must be impotent, he thought.
"Why did he cut his throat like that, Polly? Was it love? I think if I was crossed in love I'd drink brandy and whisky and creme de menthe and that stuff that's made with eggs."
"It wasn't love with Mr. Shaw. I don't know why he did it. Mrs. Bentley said there was blood everywhere, everywhere, and all over the clock. He left a little note in the letter rack and all it said was that he'd been meaning to do it ever since October. Look, the water'll drip right through into the kitchen."
He turned it off. The birds stopped singing.
"Perhaps it was love, really. Perhaps he loved you, Polly, but he wouldn't say so. From a distance."
"Go on, he had a limp," she said. "Old Dot and Carry. How old are you?"
"No, you're not."
"Well, nearly."
"No, you're not."

(dylan thomas, from adventures in the skin trade)
the dylan thomas collection i found at mast books a few months ago - with a photo of a man with his little finger lodged in a bottle of bass on the cover, and a child's blue ball-point scribbles on the last few pages - could be the first thing i've read in a decade that makes me want to be a novelist. not any novelist, mind you, but the novelist to finish that novel (thomas stopped writing it after four chapters).
This unique fragment, half fictional though it is, carries the unmistakable stamp of [DT's] personality. It is real now because it was once real to him, and because it holds the key to a certain attitude to the world and to a situation which was peculiarly his own. This attitude, which may be defined as a rooted opposition to material progress, he continued to hold long after he had abandoned work on the novel. Its anarchic fantasy appealed to him, and it is one more example of the poet's indifference to reputation, of his refusal to follow the advance guard of his fame.

(vernon watkins, in his introduction to adventures in the skin trade)
sam never gets free of the bottle, not even when the wicked polly convinces him to remove all of his clothes, get into someone else's cold, dirty bath, and drink a full glass of eau de cologne ("'Christ!' he said in a clear, ordinary voice. 'Christ!'"). it's a damn shame.


anonymous said...

Unfinished pieces are haunting. That one in particular.

Less haunting, but mildly related - did you have that book as a kid that had illustrations and then a single sentence for each? The idea was that you would write a story that used the sentence somewhere. Loved that. I need a good springboard for fiction.

Rachel (heart of light) said...

Gah. That was me. 

kidchamp said...

ooh - i didn't have it, but i love the idea. i need a big, sturdy springboard for fiction (the one class i took in college was subjected most unsportingly to my barely-fictionalized juvenile adventures). 

the other crazy thing about my copy of this book: based on the name written in the upper corner of the first page, i suspect it once belonged to my former boss's mother (which would make the drawings on the last few pages...my boss's kid-scribbles?). 'twould be a crazy coincidence, but she's got a fairly uncommon name - i'm asking her about it. 

kidchamp said...

update: it's totally her book. 

bigBANG said...

You convince me so easily with your pithy book recs. Consider this purchased, just as soon as I get to the bookstore later this afternoon. Also, my friend Maggie Shipstead is reading from her Big Hit novel, "Seating Arrangements," at the B&N on the UES on Friday at 7. You should most certainly come. Also, a present:


Amanda Moo said...

That stuff that's made with eggs.

Rachel (heart of light) said...

That is amazing. 

Hannah said...

(O, the treat of catching up with two months of champ at once!)  I just picked up Adventures in the Skin Trade for the first time a few days ago, from the shelves of the Scottish poet at whose Bulgarian house/farm/art compound I am currently living.  I grabbed it so I could knowledgeably drop the title in a story, but now I think I must actually read the thing (which I have just finished doing with The Female Eunuch, picked up for the same reason, and good heavens).

re: the comments: once I had a friendship with someone predicated largely on our mutual fascination with early-90's DC arty-hardcore band Circus Lupus, and then, feeling like a poseur for only having listened to Circus Lupus at the radio station, I bought all their records at Amoeba and found my pen pal's name in them.