Thursday, January 2, 2014

When Frederick Exley met the parents

Frederick Exley's best known book is called "A Fan's Notes" and it was first published in 1968. It's a singular book mostly about Exley's own experiences and failures from asylums to YMCAs, to failed relationships, to alcohol addictions and American football. Exley's writing is at it's best, when in a dramatic context, with a few words he turns the situation on it's head and makes the whole thing sound hilarious. Take for example this excerpt from the book when he is somehow forced to meet the parents of his girlfriend.   

"... In the end Bunny even insisted that I make the trip to the suburbs to face her parents. It was this meeting that ended everything.
   The Allorgees lived in a suburb of a suburb, their particular little suburb being Heritage Heights. It was a suburb that had apparently never caught on. The streets were all there, but there was only one house, Allorgees' Acres, a great, white, one-storied, rambling ranch-type place in which everything from garage to game room to hot-water heater was found on the single story that shot out in all sorts of clapboard arms, like the spokes of a wagon wheel. "The Heights" was not on any height at all; this was the American Midwest at its most grotesque, treeless and cold-looking as far as the eye could see, so that it only seemed set on high ground. There was only one thing that broke the endless blue monotony of the heavens - a television aerial that rose so high that it dizzied one to look up at it, an aerial which, I was proudly informed, put the Allorgees on certain clear days in contact with all parts of the Republic. It was a touching monument to their isolation. In answer to my question about its astounding height, Chuck (or Poppy) - as the father was interchangeably designated - said only that he liked "good reception".
  That was the only thing I remember Chuck, or Poppy, saying for the entire weekend. The rest of his communication with me consisted of an outrageous wink, a wink that distressed me so much that after a time I began to wonder if I ought not to pop Chuckie, or Chuck Poppy..."

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