In the latest issue:

The Politics of Like and Dislike

William Davies

The Shrine

Alan Bennett

After the Shock

Adam Tooze

Punishment by Pressing

Hazel V. Carby

The Suitcase

Frances Stonor Saunders

Short Cuts: Thanington Without

Patrick Cockburn

The Lessons of Reconstruction

Randall Kennedy

Company-States

Linda Colley

Eva Hesse

Anne Wagner

Parachuted into France

Neal Ascherson

The Age of Sail

N.A.M. Rodger

Poem: ‘Near Gleann nam Fiadh’

Robin Robertson

‘You People’

Clare Bucknell

What Didn’t Happen

Michael Wood

Forster in Cambridge

Richard Shone

Diary: In Ashgabat

James Lomax

Chauncey HareAugust Kleinzahler
Close
Close

It was just a block or two off Palisade Ave,
a sprawling, second-floor living room,
faux wood-panelled, stuffed chairs, big sofa,
cheap ceramic Disney figurines on the coffee table,
but with a wall-sized picture window facing east,
the midtown ‘moody, water-loving giants of Manhattan’
nearly in our laps, a 3-D mirage, a Fata Morgana
of the sort you see sometimes on Rt. 46 headed south for the GW bridge,
ghostly buildings in the sky ahead of you the size of Himalayas.

The principal actors were locals, acquaintances, once featured in
Kraft Foods Midday Matinee, stretching torturously toward some bleak horizon,
reminiscent of those stupefying 12-hour art films of the ’70s
time-lapse photography of a ladybug over many months,
first venturing left a millimetre, then right,
then collapsing of her own weight and disintegrating
atop the flaccid member of a junked-out blond love object.

All of us much alike, in manner, background, dress,
sans ambition, personality – well, perhaps a dismal aggregate of TV knock-offs,
supporting role types: Fatty, Perky, Poufy, Pesty
having lived lives, if not wasted, distinguished in no way whatsoever:
Middle-aged Sears Shoppers in Repose among Themselves’:
an installation piece best kept in the garage, ersatz Keinholz,
or Portrait of a New Jersey Interior, Cliffside Park, 1974 by Chauncey Hare.

Ordinariness seemed to cling to us like dinge or some kind of mould,
I no more nor less than the others.
But I am now compelled here to confess: what altered me,
rendered me a sort of dybbuk or freak, this capacity I had for –
what?: time travel, astral projection, roaming imposture – knock, knock/
who’s there? – ever in disguise, as if dispatched by some o’er governing impulse,
that radiated and infused my inner being, veiled but present,
decals of exotic ports of call sprouting across the inside of my skull –

not unlike the old, cordovan-coloured suitcase belonging to my late Great-Uncle Nandor –
along with the attendant, requisite tricks of mimicry, vanishing
in a trice, transformation, all picked up on the fly, beyond any normal’s ken
and, of course, hidden in a vest pocket, as it were, that served to make me master
of the room in which we all together sat that selfsame afternoon, the house
in which it belonged, and any number of other rooms and houses just like them …

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences