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Read "Miss Lonelyhearts" by Nathanael West available from Rakuten Kobo. Day after day, 'Miss Lonelyhearts' sits in his office responding to letters from. Editorial Reviews. Review. In dark times, Miss Lonelyhearts shines the brightest light in the Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like Quicksand: A Library of America eBook Classic. Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Nathanael West ― novelist, screenwriter, playwright Lonelyhearts eBook: Nathanael West: Kindle Store. Download.
On it a prayer had been printed by Shrike, the feature editor. Although the deadline was less than a quarter of an hour away, he was still working on his leader. He had gone as far as: The letters were no longer funny. He could not go on finding the same joke funny thirty times a day for months on end. And on most days he received more than thirty letters, all of them alike, stamped from the dough of suffering with a heart-shaped cookie knife.
Ford Madox. Marcel Proust. Jane Austen: Jane Austen. His Bloody Project. Graeme Macrae Burnet. City on Fire. Garth Risk Hallberg. Sarah Dunant. Secret Agent. Joseph Conrad. Complete Works of H. Lovecraft Delphi Classics. Speaking from Among the Bones. The Dain Curse. History's People. Professor Margaret MacMillan. The Complete Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald: Francis Scott Fitzgerald. The Glass Key. Jonas Jonasson. As I Lay Dying. The Collected Works of James Joyce: James Joyce.
A Spy Among Friends. Ben Macintyre. To the Lighthouse. The House of Mirth. Edith Wharton. Ian McEwan. The Thirst. Jo Nesbo. The Talented Mr Ripley. Patricia Highsmith. The Magus. John Fowles. The Son. Philipp Meyer. Anton Chekhov. The Day of the Locust. Nathanael West. The Day of the Locust and Miss Lonelyhearts. The Dream Life of Balso Snell. A Cool Million.
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You are in the Greece store Not in Greece? Choose Store. Skip this list. Ratings and Book Reviews 0 1 star ratings 0 reviews. Overall rating 3. How to write a great review Do Say what you liked best and least Describe the author's style Explain the rating you gave Don't Use rude and profane language Include any personal information Mention spoilers or the book's price Recap the plot.
Close Report a review At Kobo, we try to ensure that published reviews do not contain rude or profane language, spoilers, or any of our reviewer's personal information. Would you like us to take another look at this review? No, cancel Yes, report it Thanks! When he touched something, it spilled or rolled to the floor.
The collar buttons disappeared under the bed, the point of the pencil broke, the handle of the razor fell off, the window shade refused to stay down. He fought back, but with too much violence, and was decisively defeated by the spring of the alarm clock. He fled to the street, but there chaos was multiple. Broken groups of people hurried past, forming neither stars nor squares. The lamp-posts were badly spaced and the flagging was of different sizes.
Nor could he do anything with the harsh clanging sound of street cars and the raw shouts of hucksters. No repeated group of words would fit their rhythm and no scale could give them meaning. He stood quietly against a wall, trying not to see or hear.
Then he remembered Betty.
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She had often made him feel that when she straightened his tie, she straightened much more. And he had once thought that if her world were larger, were the world, she might order it as finally as the objects on her dressing table.
He gave Betty's address to a cab driver and told him to hurry. But she lived on the other side of the city and by the time he got there, his panic had turned to irritation. She came to the door of her apartment in a crisp, white linen dressing-robe that yellowed into brown at the edges.
She held out both her hands to him and her arms showed round and smooth like wood that has been turned by the sea. With the return of self-consciousness, he knew that only violence could make him supple. It was Betty, however, that he criticized. Her world was not the world and could never include the readers of his column. Her sureness was based on the power to limit experience arbitrarily. Moreover, his confusion was significant, while her order was not. He tried to reply to her greeting and discovered that his tongue had become a fat thumb.
To avoid talking, he awkwardly forced a kiss, then found it necessary to apologize. But the trick failed and she waited for him to continue:. She was laughing at him.
On the defense, he examined her laugh for "bitterness," "sour-grapes," "a-broken-heart," "the devil-may-care. Her smile had opened naturally, not like an umbrella, and while he watched her laugh folded and became a smile again, a smile that was neither "wry," "ironical" nor "mysterious.
As they moved into the living-room, his irritation increased. She sat down on a studio couch with her bare legs under and her back straight. Behind her a silver tree flowered in the lemon wall-paper. He remained standing. You have the smug smile; all you need is the pot belly.
His voice was so full of hatred that he himself was surprised. He fidgeted for a while in silence and finally sat down beside her on the couch to take her hand. More than two months had passed since he had sat with her on this same couch and had asked her to marry him. Then she had accepted him and they had planned their life after marriage, his job and her gingham apron, his slippers beside the fireplace and her ability to cook. He had avoided her since. He did not feel guilty; he was merely annoyed at having been fooled into thinking that such a solution was possible.
He soon grew tired of holding hands and began to fidget again. He remembered that towards the end of his last visit he had put his hand inside her clothes. Unable to think of anything else to do, he now repeated the gesture. She was naked under her robe and he found her breast. She made no sign to show that she was aware of his hand. He would have welcomed a slap, but even when he caught at her nipple, she remained silent.
He began to shout at her, accompanying his shouts with gestures that were too appropriate, like those of an old-fashioned actor. As soon as any one acts viciously, you say he's sick. Wife-torturers, rapers of small children, according to you they're all sick.
No morality, only medicine. Well, I'm not sick. I don't need any of your damned aspirin. I've got a Christ complex. I'm a humanity lover.
Miss Lonelyhearts| Nathanael West|Free download|PDF EPUB|Freeditorial
All the broken bastards She had left the couch for a red chair that was swollen with padding and tense with live springs. In the lap of this leather monster, all trace of the serene Buddha disappeared. But his anger was not appeased. Instead of answering, she raised her arm as though to ward off a blow. She was like a kitten whose soft helplessness makes one ache to hurt it. Her face took on the expression of an inexperienced gambler about to venture all on a last throw.
He was turning for his hat, when she spoke. Go away. Please go away. In the street again, Miss Lonelyhearts wondered what to do next.
He was too excited to eat and afraid to go home. He felt as though his heart were a bomb, a complicated bomb that would result in a simple explosion, wrecking the world without rocking it. He decided to go to Delehanty's for a drink. In the speakeasy, he discovered a group of his friends at the bar.
They greeted him and went on talking. One of them was complaining about the number of female writers. Then some one started a train of stories by suggesting that what they all needed was a good rape. She began writing for the little magazines about how much Beauty hurt her and ditched the boy friend who set up pins in a bowling alley. The guys on the block got sore and took her into the lots one night. About eight of them. They ganged her proper When this hard-boiled stuff first came in, she dropped the trick English accent and went in for scram and lam.
She got to hanging around with a lot of mugs in a speak, gathering material for a novel. Well, the mugs didn't know they were picturesque and thought she was regular until the barkeep put them wise. They got her into the back room to teach her a new word and put the boots to her. They didn't let her out for three days. On the last day they sold tickets to niggers Miss Lonelyhearts stopped listening. His friends would go on telling these stories until they were too drunk to talk.
They were aware of their childishness, but did not know how else to revenge themselves. At college, and perhaps for a year afterwards, they had believed in literature, had believed in Beauty and in personal expression as an absolute end. When they lost this belief, they lost everything. Money and fame meant nothing to them. They were not worldly men. Miss Lonelyhearts drank steadily. He was smiling an innocent, amused smile, the smile of an anarchist sitting in the movies with a bomb in his pocket.
If the people around him only knew what was in his pocket. In a little while he would leave to kill the President. It's too damn literary--plain song, Latin poetry, medieval painting, Huysmans, stained-glass windows and crap like that. He wants to cultivate his interior garden. But you can't escape, and where is he going to find a market for the fruits of his personality? The Farm Board is a failure.
We can't all believe in Christ, and what does the farmer care about art? He takes his shoes off to get the warm feel of the rich earth between his toes. You can't take your shoes off in church. Miss Lonelyhearts had again begun to smile. Like Shrike, the man they imitated, they were machines for making jokes. A button machine makes buttons, no matter what the power used, foot, steam or electricity.
They, no matter what the motivating force, death, love or God, made jokes. The whisky was good and he felt warm and sure. Through the light-blue tobacco smoke, the mahogany bar shone like wet gold. The glasses and bottles, their high lights exploding, rang like a battery of little bells when the bartender touched them together. He forgot that his heart was a bomb to remember an incident of his childhood. One winter evening, he had been waiting with his little sister for their father to come home from church.
She was eight years old then, and he was twelve. Made sad by the pause between playing and eating, he had gone to the piano and had begun a piece by Mozart. It was the first time he had ever voluntarily gone to the piano.
His sister left her picture book to dance to his music. She had never danced before. She danced gravely and carefully, a simple dance yet formal As Miss Lonelyhearts stood at the bar, swaying slightly to the remembered music, he thought of children dancing. Square replacing oblong and being replaced by circle.
Every child, everywhere; in the whole world there was not one child who was not gravely, sweetly dancing. He stepped away from the bar and accidentally collided with a man holding a glass of beer. When he turned to beg the man's pardon, he received a punch in the mouth.
Later he found himself at a table in the back room, playing with a loose tooth. He wondered why his hat did not fit and discovered a lump on the back of his head. He must have fallen.
The hurdle was higher than he had thought. His anger swung in large drunken circles. What in Christ's name was this Christ business?
And children gravely dancing? He would ask Shrike to be transferred to the sports department. Ned Gates came in to see how he was getting along and suggested the fresh air: Gates was also very drunk.
When they left the speakeasy together, they found that it was snowing. Miss Lonelyhearts' anger grew cold and sodden like the snow. He and his companion staggered along with their heads down, turning corners at random, until they found themselves in front of the little park. A light was burning in the comfort station and they went in to warm up. An old man was sitting on one of the toilets.
The door of his booth was propped open and he was sitting on the turned-down toilet cover. The old man jumped with fright, but finally managed to speak.
Please let me alone. The old man looked as if he were going to cry, but suddenly laughed instead. A terrible cough started under his laugh, and catching at the bottom of his lungs, it ripped into his throat.
He turned away to wipe his mouth. Miss Lonelyhearts tried to get Gates to leave, but he refused to go without the old man. They both grabbed him and pulled him out of the stall and through the door of the comfort station. He went soft in their arms and started to giggle. Miss Lonelyhearts fought off a desire to hit him. The snow had stopped falling and it had grown very cold.
The old man did not have an overcoat, but said that he found the cold exhilarating. He carried a cane and wore gloves because, as he said, he detested red hands. Instead of going back to Delehanty's they went to an Italian cellar close by the park. The old man tried to get them to drink coffee, but they told him to mind his own business and drank rye.
The whisky burned Miss Lonely-hearts' cut lip. Gates was annoyed by the old man's elaborate manners. When did you first discover homosexualistic tendencies in yourself? Scientists have terribly bad manners But you are a pervert, aren't you? The old man raised his cane to strike him. Gates grabbed it from behind and wrenched it out of his hand. He began to cough violently and held his black satin tie to his mouth. Still coughing he dragged himself to a chair in the back of the room.
Miss Lonelyhearts felt as he had felt years before, when he had accidentally stepped on a small frog. Its spilled guts had filled him with pity, but when its suffering had become real to his senses, his pity had turned to rage and he had beaten it frantically until it was dead. Gates followed laughing. At their approach, the old man jumped to his feet. Miss Lonelyhearts caught him and forced him back into his chair.
Miss Lonelyhearts put his arm around the old man. When the old man still remained silent, he took his arm and twisted it. Gates tried to tear him away, but he refused to let go. He was twisting the arm of all the sick and miserable, broken and betrayed, inarticulate and impotent.
He was twisting the arm of Desperate, Brokenhearted, Sick-of-it-all, Disillusioned-with-tubercular-husband. Miss Lonelyhearts lay on his bed fully dressed, just as he had been dumped the night before. His head ached and his thoughts revolved inside the pain like a wheel within a wheel.
When he opened his eyes, the room, like a third wheel, revolved around the pain in his head. From where he lay he could see the alarm clock. It was half past three. When the telephone rang, he crawled out of the sour pile of bed clothes. Shrike wanted to know if he intended to show up at the office.
He answered that he was drunk but would try to get there. He undressed slowly and took a bath. The hot water made his body feel good, but his heart remained a congealed lump of icy fat. After drying himself, he found a little whisky in the medicine chest and drank it. The alcohol warmed only the lining of his stomach. He shaved, put on a clean shirt and a freshly pressed suit and went out to get something to eat. When he had finished his second cup of scalding coffee, it was too late for him to go to work.
But he had nothing to worry about, for Shrike would never fire him. He made too perfect a butt for Shrike's jokes. Once he had tried to get fired by recommending suicide in his column.
All that Shrike had said was: Suicide, it is only reasonable to think, must defeat this purpose. He paid for his breakfast and left the cafeteria.
Some exercise might warm him. He decided to take a brisk walk, but he soon grew tired and when he reached the little park, he slumped down on a bench opposite the Mexican War obelisk.
The stone shaft cast a long, rigid shadow on the walk in front of him.
He sat staring at it without knowing why until he noticed that it was lengthening in rapid jerks, not as shadows usually lengthen. He grew frightened and looked up quickly at the monument. It seemed red and swollen in the dying sun, as though it were about to spout a load of granite seed. He hurried away. When he had regained the street, he started to laugh.
Although he had tried hot water, whisky, coffee, exercise, he had completely forgotten sex. What he really needed was a woman. He laughed again, remembering that at college all his friends had believed intercourse capable of steadying the nerves, relaxing the muscles and clearing the blood. But he knew only two women who would tolerate him. He had spoiled his chances with Betty, so it would have to be Mary Shrike.
When he kissed Shrike's wife, he felt less like a joke. She returned his kisses because she hated Shrike. But even there Shrike had beaten him. No matter how hard he begged her to give Shrike horns, she refused to sleep with him. Although Mary always grunted and upset her eyes, she would not associate what she felt with the sexual act. When he forced this association, she became very angry. He had been convinced that her grunts were genuine by the change that took place in her when he kissed her heavily.
Then her body gave off an odour that enriched the synthetic flower scent she used behind her ears and in the hollows of her neck. No similar change ever took place in his own body, however. Like a dead man, only friction could make him warm or violence make him mobile. He decided to get a few drinks and then call Mary from Delehanty's. It was quite early and the speakeasy was empty.
The bartender served him and went back to his newspaper. On the mirror, behind the bar hung a poster advertising a mineral water. It showed a naked girl made modest by the mist that rose from the spring at her feet.
The artist had taken a great deal of care in drawing her breasts and their nipples stuck out like tiny red hats. He tried to excite himself into eagerness by thinking of the play Mary made with her breasts. She used them as the coquettes of long ago had used their fans. One of her tricks was to wear a medal low down on her chest. Whenever he asked to see it, instead of drawing it out she leaned over for him to look.
Although he had often asked to see the medal, he had not yet found out what it represented. But the excitement refused to come. If anything, he felt colder than before he had started to think of women. It was not his line. Nevertheless, he persisted in it, out of desperation, and went to the telephone to call Mary. I've quarreled with him.
This time I'm through. She always talked in headlines and her excitement forced him to be casual. She had quarreled with Shrike before and he knew that in return for an ordinary number of kisses, he would have to listen to an extraordinary amount of complaining.
When he arrived at her place, he would probably find Shrike there with her on his lap. They would both be glad to see him and all three of them would go to the movies where Mary would hold his hand under the seat. He went back to the bar for another drink, then bought a quart of Scotch and took a cab.
Shrike opened the door. Although he had expected to see him, he was embarrassed and tried to cover his confusion by making believe that he was extremely drunk. She's in the tub. Shrike took the bottle he was carrying and pulled its cork. Then he got some charged water and made two highballs.
Whisky and the boss's wife. Miss Lonelyhearts always found it impossible to reply to him. The answers he wanted to make were too general and began too far back in the history of their relationship. However, we like to see a young man with his heart in his work. You've been going around with yours in your mouth. Miss Lonelyhearts made a desperate attempt to kid back.
Shrike laughed, but too long and too loudly, then broke off with an elaborate sigh. It's Mary who does the beating. He took a long pull at his highball and sighed again, still more elaborately. I adore heart-to-heart talks and nowadays there are so few people with whom one can really talk. Everybody is so hard-boiled. I want to make a clean breast of matters, a nice clean breast. It's better to make a clean breast of matters than to let them fester in the depths of one's soul.
While talking, he kept his face alive with little nods and winks that were evidently supposed to inspire confidence and to prove him a very simple fellow.
You spiritual lovers think that you alone suffer. But you are mistaken. Although my love is of the flesh flashy, I too suffer. It's suffering that drives me into the arms of the Miss Farkises of this world.
Yes, I suffer. Here the dead pan broke and pain actually crept into his voice. She's a damned selfish bitch. She was a virgin when I married her and has been fighting ever since to remain one. Sleeping with her is like sleeping with a knife in one's groin. It was Miss Lonelyhearts' turn to laugh.
He put his face close to Shrike's and laughed as hard as he could. Can you imagine Willie Shrike, wee Willie Shrike, raping any one? I'm like you, one of those grateful lovers. Mary came into the room in her bathrobe. She leaned over Miss Lonelyhearts and said: Come with me and bring the whisky. As he followed her into the bedroom, he heard Shrike slam the front door. She went into a large closet to dress.
He sat on the bed. Do you know why he lets me go out with other men? To save money. He knows that I let them neck me and when I get home all hot and bothered, why he climbs into my bed and begs for it.
The cheap bastard! She came out of the closet wearing a black lace slip and began to fix her hair in front of the dressing table. Miss Lonelyhearts bent down to kiss the back of her neck. He took a drink from the whisky bottle, then made her a highball. When he brought it to her, she gave him a kiss, a little peck of reward. They took a cab to a place called El Gaucho. When they entered, the orchestra was playing a Cuban rhumba. A waiter dressed as a South-American cowboy led them to a table.
Mary immediately went Spanish and her movements became languorous and full of abandon. But the romantic atmosphere only heightened his feeling of icy fatness.
He tried to fight it by telling himself that it was childish. What had happened to his great understanding heart? Guitars, bright shawls, exotic foods, outlandish costumes--all these things were part of the business of dreams. He had learned not to laugh at the advertisements offering to teach writing, cartooning, engineering, to add inches to the biceps and to develop the bust.
He should therefore realize that the people who came to El Gaucho were the same as those who wanted to write and live the life of an artist, wanted to be an engineer and wear leather puttees, wanted to develop a grip that would impress the boss, wanted to cushion Raoul's head on their swollen breasts.
They were the same people as those who wrote to Miss Lonelyhearts for help. But his irritation was too profound for him to soothe it in this way. For the time being, dreams left him cold, no matter how humble they were. She thanked him by offering herself in a series of formal, impersonal gestures. She was wearing a tight, shiny dress that was like glass-covered steel and there was something cleanly mechanical in her pantomime.
Was he sick? In a great cold wave, the readers of his column crashed over the music, over the bright shawls and picturesque waiters, over her shining body. To save himself, he asked to see the medal. Like a little girl helping an old man to cross the street, she leaned over for him to look into the neck of her dress. But before he had a chance to see anything, a waiter came up to the table. The defeat in his voice made it easy for her to ignore his request and her mind sagged with his.
When I was a child, I saw my mother die. She had cancer of the breast and the pain was terrible. She died leaning over a table. Mary leaned over to show how her mother had died and he made another attempt to see the medal. He saw that there was a runner on it, but was unable to read the inscription. He stopped listening and tried to bring his great understanding heart into action again. Parents are also part of the business of dreams.
People like Mary were unable to do without such tales. They told them because they wanted to talk about something besides clothing or business or the movies, because they wanted to talk about something poetic. When she had finished her story, he said, "You poor kid," and leaned over for another look at the medal. She bent to help him and pulled out the neck of her dress with her fingers.
This time he was able to read the inscription: It was a small victory, yet it greatly increased his fatigue and he was glad when she suggested leaving. In the cab, he again begged her to sleep with him. She refused. He kneaded her body like a sculptor grown angry with his clay, but there was too much method in his caresses and they both remained cold. At the door of her apartment, she turned for a kiss and pressed against him. A spark flared up in his groin. He refused to let go and tried to work this spark into a flame.
Miss Lonelyhearts (1933)
She pushed his mouth away from a long wet kiss. We must talk. Willie probably heard the elevator and is listening behind the door. You don't know him. If he doesn't hear us talk, he'll know you're kissing me and open the door. It's an old trick of his. He kissed her throat, then opened her dress and kissed her breasts. She was afraid to resist or to stop talking.
My father was a portrait painter. He led a very gay life. He mistreated my mother. She had cancer of the breast. Her dress fell to her feet and he tore away her underwear until she was naked under her fur coat.
He tried to drag her to the floor. He released her. She opened the door and tiptoed in, carrying her rolled up clothes under her coat. He heard her switch on the light in the foyer and knew that Shrike had not been behind the door. Then he heard footsteps and limped behind a projection of the elevator shaft.
The door opened and Shrike looked into the corridor. He had on only the top of his pajamas. It was cold and damp in the city room the next day, and Miss Lonelyhearts sat at his desk with his hands in his pockets and his legs pressed together. A desert, he was thinking, not of sand, but of rust and body dirt, surrounded by a back-yard fence on which are posters describing the events of the day. Mother slays five with ax, slays seven, slays nine Babe slams two, slams three He failed to notice Goldsmith's waddling approach until a heavy arm dropped on his neck like the arm of a deadfall.
He freed himself with a grunt. His anger amused Goldsmith, who smiled, bunching his fat cheeks like twin rolls of smooth pink toilet paper. Miss Lonelyhearts knew that Goldsmith had written the column for him yesterday, so he hid his annoyance to be grateful.
I am not very good at writing so I wonder if I could have a talk with you. I am only 32 years old but have had a lot of trouble in my life and am unhappily married to a cripple. I need some good advice bad but cant state my case in a letter as I am not good at letters and it would take an expert to state my case. I know your a man and am glad as I dont trust women. You were pointed out to me in Delehantys as a man who does the advice in the paper and the minute I saw you I said you can help me.
You had on a blue suit and a gray hat when I came in with my husband who is a cripple. I don't feel so bad about asking to see you personal because I feel almost like I knew you. So please call me up at Bugess which is my number as I need your advice bad about my married life.
Goldsmith laughed at him. Instead of pulling the Russian by recommending suicide, you ought to get the lady with child and increase the potential circulation of the paper.
To drive him away, Miss Lonelyhearts made believe that he was busy. He went over to his typewriter and started pounding out his column. Oh, my dear readers, it only seems so. Every man, no matter how poor or humble, can teach himself to use his senses. See the cloud-flecked sky, the foam-decked sea Smell the sweet pine and heady privet Feel of velvet and of satin As the popular song goes, 'The best things in life are free.
He could not go on with it and turned again to the imagined desert where Desperate, Broken-hearted and the others were still building his name. They had run out of sea shells and were using faded photographs, soiled fans, time-tables, playing cards, broken toys, imitation jewelry--junk that memory had made precious, far more precious than anything the sea might yield. He killed his great understanding heart by laughing, then reached into the waste-paper basket for Mrs.
Doyle's letter. Like a pink tent, he set it over the desert. Against the dark mahogany desk top, the cheap paper took on rich flesh tones. He thought of Mrs. Doyle as a tent, hair-covered and veined, and of himself as the skeleton in a water closet, the skull and cross-bones on a scholar's bookplate.
When he made the skeleton enter the flesh tent, it flowered at every joint. But despite these thoughts, he remained as dry and cold as a polished bone and sat trying to discover a moral reason for not calling Mrs. If he could only believe in Christ, then adultery would be a sin, then everything would be simple and the letters extremely easy to answer.
The completeness of his failure drove him to the telephone. He left the city room and went into the hall to use the pay station from which all private calls had to be made. The walls of the booth were covered with obscene drawings. He fastened his eyes on two disembodied genitals and gave the operator Burgess He went back to his desk and finished his column, then started for the park. He sat down on a bench near the obelisk to wait for Mrs.
Still thinking of tents, he examined the sky and saw that it was canvas-colored and ill-stretched. He examined it like a stupid detective who is searching for a clue to his own exhaustion. When he found nothing, he turned his trained eye on the skyscrapers that menaced the little park from all sides.
In their tons of forced rock and tortured steel, he discovered what he thought was a clue. Americans have dissipated their radical energy in an orgy of stone breaking.
In their few years they have broken more stones than did centuries of Egyptians. And they have done their work hysterically, desperately, almost as if they knew that the stones would some day break them. The detective saw a big woman enter the park and start in his direction. He made a quick catalogue: Despite her short plaid skirt, red sweater, rabbit-skin jacket and knitted tam-o'-shanter, she looked like a police captain. He did not have to answer, for she was already on her way.
As he followed her up the stairs to his apartment, he watched the action of her massive hams; they were like two enormous grindstones. He had always been the pursuer, but now found a strange pleasure in having the roles reversed. He drew back when she reached for a kiss. She caught his head and kissed him on his mouth. At first it ticked like a watch, then the tick softened and thickened into a heart throb. It beat louder and more rapidly each second, until he thought that it was going to explode and pulled away with a rude jerk.
He smoked a cigarette, standing in the dark and listening to her undress. She made sea sounds; something flapped like a sail; there was the creak of ropes; then he heard the wave-against-a-wharf smack of rubber on flesh.
I Her call for him to hurry was a sea-moan, and when he lay beside her, she heaved, tidal, moon-driven. Some fifteen minutes later, he crawled out of bed like an exhausted swimmer leaving the surf, and dropped down into a large armchair near the window. She went into the bathroom, then came back and sat in his lap.
He's a cripple like I wrote you, and much older than me. He hasn't been a husband to me for years. You know, Lucy, my kid; isn't his.
I'll bet you must have wondered how it was I came to marry a cripple. It's a long story. Her voice was as hypnotic as a tom-tom, and as monotonous. Already his mind and body were half asleep. I got into trouble when the Doyles lived above us on Center Street. I used to be kind to him and go to the movies with him because he was a cripple, although I was one of the most popular girls on the block.
So when I got into trouble, I didn't know what to do and asked him for the money for an abortion. But he didn't have the money, so we got married instead. It all came through my trusting a dirty dago. I thought he was a gent, but when I asked him to marry me, why he spurned me from the door and wouldn't even give me money for an abortion.
He said if he gave me the money that would mean it was his fault and I would have something on him. Did you ever hear of such a skunk? The life out of which she spoke was even heavier than her body. It was as if a gigantic, living Miss Lonelyhearts letter in the shape of a paper weight had been placed on his brain. So I looked his name up in the telephone book and took Lucy to see him. As I told him then, not that I wanted anything for myself, but just that I wanted Lucy to get what was coming to her.
Well, after keeping us waiting in the hall over an hour--I was boiling mad, I can tell you, thinking of the wrong he had done me and my child--we were taken into the parlor by the butler. Very quiet and lady-like, because money ain't everything and he's no more a gent than I'm a lady, the dirty wop--I told him he ought to do something for Lucy see'n' he's her father. Well, he had the nerve to say that he had never seen me before and that if I didn't stop bothering him, he'd have me run in.
That got me riled and I lit into the bastard and gave him a piece of my mind. A woman came in while we were arguing that I figured was his wife, so I hollered, 'He's the father of my child, he's the father of my child. My husband is a queer guy and he always makes believe that he is the father of the kid and even talks to me about our child. Well, when we got home, Lucy kept asking me why I said a strange man was her papa.
She wanted to know if Doyle wasn't really her papa. I must of been crazy because I told her that she should remember that her real papa was a man named Tony Benelli and that he had wronged me. I told her a lot of other crap like that--too much movies I guess. Well, when Doyle got home the first thing Lucy says to him is that he ain't her papa. That got him sore and he wanted to know what I had told her. I didn't like his high falutin' ways and said, The truth.
He went for me and hit me one on the cheek. I wouldn't let no man get away with that so I socked back and he swung at me with his stick but missed and fell on the floor and started to cry. The kid was on the floor crying too and that set me off because the next thing I know I'm on the floor bawling too. She waited for him to comment, but he remained silent until she nudged him into speech with her elbow. What girl wants to spend her life with a shrimp of a cripple?
Soon after Mrs. Doyle left, Miss Lonelyhearts became physically sick and was unable to leave his room. The first two days of his illness were blotted out by sleep, but on the third day, his imagination began again to work. He found himself in the window of a pawnshop full of fur coats, diamond rings, watches, shotguns, fishing tackle, mandolins.
All these things were the paraphernalia of suffering. A tortured high light twisted on the blade of a gift knife, a battered horn grunted with pain.
He sat in the window thinking. Man has a tropism for order. Keys in one pocket, change in another. Mandolins are tuned G D A E. The physical world has a tropism for disorder, entropy. Man against Nature Keys yearn to mix with change. Mandolins strive to get out of tune. Every order has within it the germ of destruction. All order is doomed, yet the battle is worth while. First he formed a phallus of old watches and rubber boots, then a heart of umbrellas and trout flies, then a diamond of musical instruments and derby hats, after these a circle, triangle, square, swastika.
But nothing proved definitive and he began to make a gigantic cross. When the cross became too large for the pawnshop, he moved it to the shore of the ocean. There every wave added to his stock faster than he could lengthen its arms. His labors were enormous. He staggered from the last wave line to his work, loaded down with marine refuse--bottles, shells, chunks of cork, fish heads, pieces of net.
There was a timid knock on the door. It was open and Betty tiptoed into the room with her arms full of bundles. He made believe that he was asleep. Startled, she turned to explain.
He was too tired to be annoyed by her wide-eyed little mother act and let her feed him with a spoon. When he had finished eating, she opened the window and freshened the bed. As soon as the room was in order, she started to leave, but he called her back. She showed that she accepted his apology by helping him to excuse himself. Why don't you give it up? And even if I were to quit, it wouldn't make any difference. I wouldn't be able to forget the letters, no matter what I did. Let's start from the beginning.
A man is hired to give advice to the readers of a newspaper. The job is a circulation stunt and the whole staff considers it a joke. He welcomes the job, for it might lead to a gossip column, and anyway he's tired of being a leg man.
He too considers the job a joke, but after several months at it, the joke begins to escape him. He sees that the majority of the letters are profoundly humble pleas for moral and spiritual advice, that they are inarticulate expressions of genuine suffering. He also discovers that his correspondents take him seriously. For the first time in his life, he is forced to examine the values by which he lives. This examination shows him that he is the victim of the joke and not its perpetrator. She told him about her childhood' on a farm and of her love for animals, about country sounds and country smells and of how fresh and clean everything in the country is.
She said that he ought to live there and that if he did, he would find that all his troubles were city troubles. While she was talking, Shrike burst into the room. He was drunk and immediately set up a great shout, as though he believed that Miss Lonelyhearts was too near death to hear distinctly.
Betty left without saying good-by. Shrike had evidently caught some of her farm talk, for he said: But I do not agree that the soil is the proper method for you to use. Miss Lonelyhearts turned his face to the wall and pulled up the covers. But Shrike was unescapable. He raised his voice and talked through the blankets into the back of Miss Lonelyhearts' head.
But first let us do the escape to the soil, as recommended by Betty:. The ways and means of men, as getting and lending and spending, you lay waste your inner world, are too much with you. The bus takes too long, while the subway is always crowded. So what do you do? So you buy a farm and walk behind your horse's moist behind, no collar or tie, plowing your broad swift acres.
As you turn up the rich black soil, the wind carries the smell of pine and dung across the fields and the rhythm of an old, old work enters your soul. To this rhythm, you sow and weep and chivy your kine, not kin or kind, between the pregnant rows of corn and taters.
Your step becomes the heavy sexual step of a dance-drunk Indian and you tread the seed down into the female earth.
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