Love and Death on Long Island

Love and Death on Long Island by Gilbert Adair Read Free Book Online

Book: Love and Death on Long Island by Gilbert Adair Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gilbert Adair
spectralof outline, were not at first as piercingly transparent to me as the others. It was its very fuzziness which kept me from falling asleep, as I would struggle to bring it into sharper focus.
    This happened four nights in succession. On the fifth, by virtue of so superlative an effort of concentration it seemed to me my brain might combust, I contrived at last to rip off the veil – which, uncannily, at the very last instant, fluttered away of its own accord, like one of those protective tissue covers in old-fashioned volumes of art reproductions – and the face that it had been concealing was disclosed. It belonged to the boy in the film.
    I opened my eyes and picked up the alarm clock that sat on my bedside table. It was one minute to one. Although I seldom smoked in the bedroom, I usually kept, by the clock, a pack of cigarettes and a matchbox. Without switching on a lamp, I drew a cigarette from its open pack and lighted it. I inhaled deeply, then exhaled through my nostrils, tracing the whitish curl of smoke upwards to the ceiling. Halfway up, it was traversed by the shaft of light that filtered through from the street lamp just outside my front door and that had often chanced to remind me, appropriately enough, of the luminous cone that issues from a cinema projectionist’s cabin.
    The whole futile business had obviously nettled me more than I had realised, for this was the first time I could with certain knowledge attribute the paternity of a face from my night-gallery to one I had earlier glimpsed in daytime. Several days had passed since I had seen the film. Apart from stray lines of its dialogue which,imbecilic to the nth degree and occasionally bordering on the downright illiterate, had lodged in my brain against my will and of which, once in a while, I would find myself inopportunely reminded as I wrestled with my emerging narrative, I had put it out of my mind. I pondered the meaning of this little aberration, decided it had none; then, my cigarette only half smoked, stubbed it out in an ashtray and almost immediately fell asleep.
    My work was also interrupted, if in more wonted fashion, by the arrival of a first complimentary copy of
The Gentrification of the Void
, followed a day or two later by nine others making up the full complement that was due to me. The latter would be sent to Cambridge graced with dedications that I seemed to have to agonise over as much as over the work itself.
    It was, though, my practice to read the printed text through before sending out any copies at all – even if, having overseen each stage of creation and fabrication, I had become exhaustingly familiar with its every semicolon. I had to be the first to know what lay in store for the reader. I couldn’t abide the thought of receiving a friend’s flattering note of appreciation to which he then tacked on an afterword, doubtless sympathetic in intent but tending to the facetious in tone, about a line that was missing or a paragraph that had been printed upside-down. In this latest instance I did not discover too much to complain of, except for one ‘literal’ that caused me to die a little when my eyes rested upon it. To my horror, the name of Baudrillard, a ‘thinker’ I did not admire, had somehow been transmuted twice on the printed page into ‘Bachelard’ – a nonsense in the context. The error was all the more intolerable to me in that it was plainlynot a misprint, that I could have ascribed to the negligence of a copyist or typesetter, but an unforgivably careless oversight on my own part. I scored through the offending name in each of the copies to be sent off to Cambridge and scribbled a laconic note in the margin beside it.
    In the meantime work on
was advancing well. It was firming up nicely, it was growing as hard and dense and compact between my hands as a snowball from which the fat, as it were, has been removed. The stimulus for having my protagonist

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