Starting Out in the Evening
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176 pages

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A New York Times Notable Book: A friendship evolves between an aging author and a young grad student in a novel by the acclaimed author of Florence Gordon.
A PEN/Faulkner Award Nominee and one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year
Leonard Schiller is a novelist in his seventies, a second-string but respectable talent who produced only a small handful of books. Heather Wolfe is an attractive graduate student in her twenties. She read Schiller’s novels when she was growing up and they changed her life. When the ambitious Heather decides to write her master’s thesis about Schiller’s work and sets out to meet him—convinced she can bring Schiller back into the literary world’s spotlight—the unexpected consequences of their meeting alter everything in Schiller’s ordered life. What follows is a quasi-romantic friendship and intellectual engagement that investigates the meaning of art, fame, and personal connection. “Nothing less than a triumph,” Starting Out in the Evening is Brian Morton’s most widely acclaimed novel to date (The New York Times Book Review).



Publié par
Date de parution 01 octobre 2007
Nombre de lectures 4
EAN13 9780547451596
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0075€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Table of Contents
Title Page
Table of Contents
Keep Reading for a Sample from FLORENCE GORDON
Buy the Book
About the Author
Copyright © 1998 by Brian Morton
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduaced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.
First published by Crown Publishers, 1998.
The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows: Morton, Brian, 1955— Starting out in the evening/Brian Morton.—1st Harvest ed. p. cm. 1. Novelists—Fiction. 2. Women graduate students—Fiction. 3. Authors and readers—Fiction. 4. Fame—Psychological aspects—Fiction. 5. Psychological fiction. I. Title. PS3563.O88186S73 2007 813'54—dc22 2007024181 ISBN 978-0-15-603341-1
e ISBN 978-0-547-45159-6 v3.0814
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, organizations, and events are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Heather was wearing the wrong dress. It had seemed like a good idea in the morning—it was a tight little black thing; she’d looked fantastic in the mirror—but now she was thinking that she should have worn something demure. This was a foolish dress to meet your intellectual hero in.
Waiting in the coffee shop for the great man to arrive, Heather was squirming with nervousness, and she began to wonder why she was here—why she had gone to such lengths to meet this man, when she knew he couldn’t possibly be as interesting in person as he was in his books. She had a wild urge to flee—to scribble a note of apology, leave it with the waiter, and drive all the way back to Providence. But she stayed where she was. She was nervous; she was a little scared; but she could live with that. Fear of any undertaking, to her way of thinking, was usually a reason to go ahead with it.
The door opened and a man came in from the cold. He was wearing an enormous coat—a coat that was like a house—and a big, furry, many-flapped hat. He peeled off the hat and stopped for a moment in front of the cash register, stamping off the snow. He was wearing galoshes.
They had never met, but he picked her out instantly, and he came toward her, smiling. Old, fat, bald, leaning awkwardly on a cane. The man of her dreams.
“I can’t believe it’s you,” she said, as he pressed her hand and sat heavily across from her.
What she wanted to say was: You’ve been dear to me since I was a girl. You were one of my life-teachers. You understood me; you helped me understand myself. If reading a book is a naked encounter between two people, I have known you nakedly for years.
She wanted to say wild things to him, but here he was, struggling out of his coat, and he seemed terribly old and terribly frail, and above all terribly unfamiliar, and she suddenly felt shy. When she read his work, it was as if he poured his soul directly into hers, and they mixed. Now there were bodies in the way.
She felt as if she were in the middle of an earthquake. The furniture in her mind was sliding around. Reading his work, she had always thought of him as a contemporary. In fact—as she’d known, of course, with her rational mind—he was closer to her grandparents’ age. And though she’d entertained many imaginary pictures of him over the years, it had never occurred to her that he might be fat. To her mind, genius was gaunt.
He was older and larger than she’d imagined, and somehow both softer and harder. His hand was soft when she shook it; his face was saggy, like a poached egg. In his eyes, though, there was something chilly and ironic. He was an odd combination of the soft and the shrewd. He looked like a gangster’s uncle.
“I can’t believe it’s me either,” Schiller said—breathing heavily, looking for a place to rest his cane.
Heather ordered a salad, a BLT, and coffee; Schiller asked for a baked potato—no butter, no sour cream—and tea. “I’m on the Pritikin diet,” he said to her after the waiter left. “I had a heart attack last year, and the year before that. I’m not allowed to put butter on anything anymore.”
“That must have been very scary,” she said, trying to sound like the most sympathetic woman ever born.
“They do tend to concentrate the mind.”
This was a literary reference, but she couldn’t remember from where. Her mind was reeling. She was sitting across from him! He was here! He was here, but he was dying. She felt thankful that she had come to him in time.
The waiter returned with her salad, his potato, her coffee and his tea, and in the momentary confusion of platters she tried to bring herself down to earth.
“Are you working on a new novel?” she said.
“I’m working on a novel, yes. But I’ve been working on it so long I’m not sure you could call it new.” He sipped his tea, with, she thought, a notable delicacy.
Remember the way he drinks his tea. Remember the softness of his hands. Remember the way he looks down at the table when he speaks. Remember.
He asked her a few questions about herself: where she was born, where she’d gone to school, whether she liked New York. It struck her as odd that she should have to tell him these things. Didn’t he know her? During the years she’d been reading his work, he had so often helped her understand herself that she’d sometimes felt as if he cared about her.
“So,” he said finally, “you’ve embarked on a project of questionable merit. You’re working on a study. Of me.” He shook his big head sadly.
This was why she was here. This was why she had worked up the courage to find him, and this was why she had come to New York. She was writing her master’s thesis about Schiller’s novels.
The thesis, in her mind, was only the first step: her real goal was to write a book about his work. She was twenty-four years old; she hoped to have her thesis written before her twenty-fifth birthday and a book contract in her hands before her twenty-sixth.
She had grandiose daydreams. Schiller had written four novels, and all of them were out of print. In the 1940s, when most of William Faulkner’s work was out of print, the critic Malcolm Cowley reintroduced him to the public with a volume called The Portable Faulkner. It was this collection that made American readers see they had a genius in their midst; if not for Cowley, Faulkner might have died in obscurity. Heather was already thinking about a Portable Schiller.
“I think it’s a very worthy project,” she said, lamely.
He took off his glasses and polished them slowly with a handkerchief. “I’m flattered by your interest. And if you’re intent on doing this study, I won’t try to talk you out of it. But I’m sorry to have to say that I won’t be able to help you with it either.”
She tried to take this in. He hadn’t been encouraging on the phone, but neither had he told her flatly that he wouldn’t help.
“Ten years ago, it would have made me very happy. But I’m an old man now.”
“What does being old have to do with it?”
“I’m trying to finish a novel,” he said. “It will probably be the last novel I write. My only remaining goal in life is to finish it. I’m not in good health, and I need to avoid anything that distracts me from that goal. Your project would be a distraction, Miss Wolfe. A very flattering distraction, but a distraction nonetheless.”
He sighed. It struck her as a poetic sigh, but she was prepared to find poetry in anything he did.
She looked at him closely. The folds of skin on his face sagged disastrously; like many old men, he looked strangely like an old woman.
In a way, what he’d said was what she would have wanted him to say. She thought his devotion to his art was beautiful. He was a hero: a wounded hero, dragging his frail body toward his goal.
“I understand. And I respect your decision. But I can’t help thinking that you’ve made up your mind too quickly. Maybe the best thing for your health would be to have a fascinating young woman in your life.”
He’d been about to put his glasses back on, but now he put them down and examined her, with an expression of curiosity and amusement. It was as if he was looking at her for the first time

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