Loved Into Submission - A Novel
I began writing this novel in the Autumn of 1995, and finally finished it in January of 2003. It's a farce, inspired by, among other things, John Toole's "Confederacy of Dunces", Shakespeare's "King Lear", the Arthurian legends, and the weirdos who surrounded my college life. Being a farce, it has a rather biting subdued humor (similar to bruno in ways I suppose), and with any luck, is uncomfortably too close to real life.
Below I have put the first three sections for you to view, to see if you enjoy my writing style here, before you make any purchase. The story is that of a young woman named Marion. Having just finished high-school, she makes her way into the world, in a somewhat catapulted fashion. The blurb from the back of the book reads:
Marion has a lot of questions about life, questions which neither school nor home have answers for. Unfortunately, everyone she meets does have answers, which become plans, which spell "bad week for Marion", leaving her drunk, disillusioned, drowned, disguised, and dangled from four stories up.
So, enjoy the bit I have pasted here, and if you do enjoy it, well. Um. I guess I'd encourage you to buy it. :)
Marion woke up and yawned. She must have left the radio on, because it was noisy around her, and she was amazed that she could sleep through it. She felt rather dizzy too, and due to the fact that she was lying down, she found this peculiar. She opened her eyes.
Ah yes. She hadn't been sleeping, she must have passed out. She was at a party, who knows what time it must be, curled up on the couch with a somewhat bumpy and uncomfortable corduroy pillow. The pillow shifted.
Wide awake, she sat up.
"Hey," said the man wearing corduroy pants, "you okay? You've been out for a while now. I was worried. I felt really close to you after our conversation."
She didn't recognize him.
"Thanks," she said. "Excuse me."
Marion got up and found that she had to pee. She looked around the room and located the door with the line outside of it. Someone stumbled out, and ignoring the people waiting, Marion said, "Emergency," and stumbled in.
After peeing for about 5 minutes, Marion found a large throw pillow, an unoccupied corner, and she curled up into a ball, falling again into unconsciousness.
"Neil, can I talk to you about something?"
"Yeah Lucas, go ahead."
"Well, you know what an idiot I am with women?"
"I hate to be the one to agree, but yes."
"I've met one, and I think I might be falling in love with her."
The late summer sun shone heavily on their shoulders as Neil and Lucas strolled down the street of Northampton towards Neil's house. The leaves were still young and yet they had already begun to dry in the late August breeze, rattling as the two men passed.
Neil was a short man, stout like his father had been. He wore all black, including a thin black summer trench coat and a black beret, all of which set off the white glow of his round pale face.
Lucas was tall and strawberry blond. He wore a light tan trench coat and matching fedora. Both the lapels of the jacket and the hat's brim were carefully ironed flat.
Northampton was the type of New England town where this would be considered normal.
"In love," Neil said. "Really, Lucas?"
"Yes, but I've been afraid to make any moves, and so I've been wanting to ask your advice on what I should do."
"I'd be happy to give you advice. Tell me about her, please."
"Well," Lucas said, "her name's Alyssa, and she's beautiful. She's slender and delicate, and she has large, blue, inquisitive eyes."
"I gave her my screenplay, for her opinion on it."
"And did you know her credentials? Christ! I mean, what do you expect her to say? Do you think she'll say that it's nice? That it's pretty?"
"She's already read it. We spoke a few days after I gave it to her."
"A few days?" Neil asked. "How long has this hidden affair been going on? So much for us being best friends! Fine. Fine! What'd she say?"
"She told me, 'Lucas, you should be doing this all the time'. I went to respond. 'Shhh', she said. 'Yes, I know you're answering phones for six dollars an hour, but this is beautiful, like nothing else I've ever read. True talent must not be ignored. If it were wasted, the world would suffer terribly."
"Obviously she doesn't believe that the artist suffers at all."
"Neil, I don't think she meant it that way, she just... she liked it, Neil. She thought it was great."
They had reached Neil's house and stopped. Neil's round chin raised slightly, and his eyebrows lifted. He surveyed his friend slow and long.
"Let's go for a drive."
This was not a new ritual, so Lucas was not surprised by it. They walked around to the back of the building, and it came into view. In the middle of a small green grass yard, propped up on cinderblocks, was a 1987 tireless maroon Chevy Beretta. The left rear window had been replaced with translucent plastic and duct tape, a motor belt was visibly sticking out beneath the engine, and rust growth was eating up the car from the base up. The rust complimented the paint color of the vehicle, but the gray tape stood out terribly.
Neil had bought the car a year ago. He had seen the decrepit thing on old Carl Banker's lawn, and simply needed to own it, and now he did. It broke his heart to see it in its current condition, but he didn't feel the emotional ability to tend to its needs. The first month he had owned it he had bought books and parts and had actually done some work on it, but the burden outgrew the love. He justified, fairly, that the town was small enough to not actually need a car; and so it rested, patiently, awaiting the day it would roll off of those four gray blocks of cinder. They sat in the car and Neil turned the key. The car remained obstinately silent.
"Chugga chugga, brrooom, brroooom," he said.
"Neil," Lucas said. "What is so wrong with Alyssa's response? I mean, I gave you a copy a month ago, and you haven't even read it yet."
"I've read it. I just haven't had a chance to fully digest it enough to give you appropriate feedback. In fact it's on the top of the pile on my desk. I just need more time. But I can guarantee you that I will give you feedback you can use. It is far from, how did she put it? 'Like nothing else she's ever read'. Like that's so helpful. She could have said the same thing if it was text from the back of a Lithuanian cereal box."
"Well, that's just one thing, Neil. I mean, she's great. She really is, I'm honored to even know her."
"Honored. Do you really believe that? Honored? If you were so honored, why hadn't you told me? Me. Neil. Or maybe I should ask, how honored are you to know me?"
Neil spun the wheel as if they were pulling over. He then turned back the key and removed it from the ignition.
"Damnit, Lucas. I'm sorry, but I just don't want you to be hurt. I'm not sure if you really know how you feel. Maybe I could meet her, that might be better."
"Do you think? I don't know how well you two would get along."
"I'll be on my best behavior. As always."
Marion awoke in the early afternoon amidst the wreckage of the party she had not made it home from. She tried to comb out whatever it was that had crusted in her hair and examined her weary face in the mirror. Fine, so she deserved her currently hideously bloodshot eyes, but why was she so plain? Dull brown hair, and a putty-skinned face with no sign of character behind it. She wiped away her smeared lipstick with toilet paper and raised her hand to reapply, but paused and instead decided that any attempt to beautify this morning's face was a lost cause. With a downcast wince, she faced the opened door sun, and then stepped out into a breezy New England August.
Soon she found herself standing in line at the Haymarket Cafe, and as her mind wandered, she began examining the two women who created a curtain between her and the rest of the line in front of her. One was large and wore a purple and orange frock, she had chin-length, honey-colored hair; the other dressed her thin frame rather blandly, her dark hair cut short and blow-dried straight up.
"Lea," said the thinner of the two, "I'm in no way saying that you've written a poor manuscript. If anything, I'm visibly impressed. Nonetheless, it could use cleaning up here and there."
"I'm no good at writing, Kate, just tell me."
"No, it just needs some deconstructing. Take, for example," she said, pulling out a pile of dog-eared pages covered in red marks, "the paragraph describing your protagonist as she is being led to the mayor of Northampton. I mean, do you see the paragraph that you actually constructed here? Right now it's a paragraph that only initially alludes action, but isn't actually a paragraph about action. The first sentence has action, 'led' and description 'large three-story building.' Do you remember in elementary school constructing paragraphs? This is the opening sentence, and thus it is about the topic. Now, it is interesting that the topic of the sentence is 'she'... and she was what? She was led. The entire minimal first sentence is 'She was led.' But the paragraph is not about her or about being led."
Lea's lips tightened and her brow furrowed. "It's not?"
"No, it's a paragraph about description, with occasional actions thrown in. We are shown passages and mazes and such and it ends in a barrier through which she will presumably pass in the next paragraph. But the actions, when even mentioned, keep changing." Lea pointed at individual words on the page. "'forward', 'through', 'led', et cetera, until she reaches the center and she must stop. This center is so nicely crafted, where there is now a barrier or doorway or portal in which behind is something that will be introduced, something new. The doorway is a powerful image. But what would be nice is to make sure that all of the action words in the paragraph have to do with being 'led', or that she 'followed', or that she 'kept up with', or that she 'tried to retain sight of her guide so as to not get lost amid the', and then in the last sentence the guide steps aside and she is confronted by the oak doorway in front of which she stops, regains her breath, and pushes the door aside. I mean, you must think about how your actions relate and how to use action as a vehicle for...uh... for...."
Kate stopped speaking, and she and Lea turned and looked at Marion who was now listening intently.
Marion bowed her head and said, "sorry". Soon, with coffee in hand, she was out the door.
Approaching her house, Marion looked forward to taking a long afternoon nap. She dipped her hand into a pocket and produced a key, turning it over and again amid her dancing fingers. Hypnotized, her lowered eyes followed the key as it flashed and gleamed, then fell to the floor with a dull 'ping'. She bent over to pick it up.
She eased the key into the lock, and hoping to remain unnoticed, edged open the door and slipped in. As she entered and disposed of the empty paper coffee cup, she found her mother's boyfriend reading the sports page and eating a croissant.
Claude lowered his daily literature and returned his French pastry to its porcelain nest. He looked up. His mustache and eyebrows bristled. He examined her from head to toe, and his facial features tightened with disgust.
She nodded to him as she passed by on her way to her room.
"Marion, where have you been?"
She stopped. "Not at a sports event, or you might have seen me on television."
"Your mother was worried to the bone last night, and because of you. Staying out all hours. It isn't decent. I know it. Boy, with my last wife, I would never have let my child behave that way. Nothing short of a beating. They wouldn't be doing it again is what I'd teach them."
"How fortunate they must be."
"Now don't think I'm a mean man, Marion. I don't believe in being cruel. In fact, I think all creatures are made equal. But I do think your mother has a lesson to learn in how to properly guide you kids... before it's too late. I'm only saying this to show my care for you. And as well to say that I'm mad you'd hurt your mother. Don't you even care about your mother?"
"Of course I do," Marion said, "but I don't think-"
"Well you sure don't show it. You may think you're an adult, but you have a few lessons to learn, a few I might be forced to teach you."
"Is that a threat?"
"Well, no. You know your mother would never let me hurt you. I didn't mean it to be a threat. It's just-"
"So you're just tying to prod me. Excuse me, I want to go to my room."
"I'm not through with you yet."
"Well I don't want to deal with this."
"Your mother and I have been talking."
"Amazing, I though you just watched television together."
"We've been discussing the idea of getting married."
She was silent at this statement. No one could commit such an outrageous blunder, not even her mother, though spin washed and tumble dried by her drugs into a warm false realty. Could the security of this walking mid-life crisis have entered her mother's malleable head as reasonable idea? Marion sighed. Unfortunately likely.
Marion felt the pangs of genetic disadvantage that this situation revealed in regards to romantic discrimination. This proved for certain that she couldn't have inherited any from her mother. And her biological father? Whoever the Hell he was, he hadn't apparently been very discriminating.
"And if we do," Claude said, " things are going to change around here. You are not my child yet, so right now I don't have any say as to how you're handled. But I sure as Hell will then. And you are not going to pull this kind of crap in this family. Even if means I do have to beat it into you."
They were interrupted by one of her younger half-brothers, stumbling in from the television room like one of a litter falling out of the basket. He was wearing a large baggy white tee shirt, bleached clean and stamped with a corporate slogan, tucked into light blue stone washed jeans. He lifted his eight year old head to the newest father he had.
"Claude, why are you yelling and swearing? I thought you said we weren't supposed to swear?"
"It's your sister who's making me swear. Don't ever listen to her, or she'll start getting you to do the things she does. She's mean and hateful. Yes. Did you know she makes your mother cry?"
The child looked towards Marion.
"You make mommy cry?"
She looked at him with gravity.
He looked back over towards Claude.
"You may curse her if you wish," Claude said.
"You suck," he said to Marion, and left the room.
Marion imagined the boy now contemplating the brilliant philosophical scrutiny of his newest father. She watched as Claude bobbed his head in smug victory, and was filled with a feeling of cynicism: He was feeling proud of his ability to convince an eight-year-old of something.
"Listen Claude," she said, "I'm a bit tired. Excuse me."
"Oh-ho. You're not getting off that easy. You're grounded. Do you hear me? You will not leave this house even if it means I have to come after you and drag you home... you brat. Your mother may have her views on how to run a family, but she's wrong. No healthy family could have a daughter who was so messed up. Just get to your room. Go."
But she was already in her bedroom with the door shut by the time he had finished speaking. She didn't feel defeated, only resigned to the futility of any retort.
She heard the grinding of wood coming from her door and realized that it was Claude installing a lock on the outside. Amazing. He was not only predictable, but foolish enough to think a lock would keep her in her room.
She sneered and then sat on the edge of her bed. She lit a cigarette. His comments inharmoniously banged out some chord in her. She disagreed strongly with him, but she knew his words weren't an uncommon sentiment in this world. She was alone, not him. And it was because he was an idiot in a world of idiots. How fair was that?
She looked at the notebooks piled on top of her desk, and she felt an urgency to dispose of them. They were like a smoking gun covered in her fingerprints, pointing back at her corpse of a high school career, which only months ago had finally come to an end. Yes. High School, Graduation, a string of parties, her eighteenth birthday, more parties. She was a grownup.
She picked up the top notebook. English. In it was her final paper: "Who Am I?" It was marked in red at the top with an "A" and "Marion, you seem to really have a grasp on who you are. You'll go far." It was a terrible paper of course; she realized that when she wrote it. A list of Edgar Allan Poe quotes, references to drug experiences, and friend's suicides. Typical high school rhetoric.
She put her lighter beneath the paper, and let the pages fall into her trash can where they burned away. A chapter better left in ashes.
She rose, walked over to her bedroom door, and stood with her nose pressed against it. It was shut. It was locked. She could hear Claude pace around the house, fuming and cursing under his breath. She closed her eyes, no longer in thought, just silent, momentarily in the wake of thought. And then Claude's words flooded back, threatening abuse, attempting to ground her. And what if she left? She was a legal adult. What would he do? Drag her home? Indeed, that is what it would take.
A weary canvas bag patiently rested near her closet, and she fed it tee shirts and jeans, tampons and matches, anything which seemed important.
She recounted the conversation again in her head. She did not wish to be left with any self-inflicted moral qualms regarding her justification.
No. There would be none.
She slung the bag over her shoulder and set her house key upon the bed stand. She walked over to the window, unlocked it, and with a little jiggling, worked it open. Several blocks away would be the first pay telephone, where she would call Claude, just to rub it in.
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