Hopefully the annual (yawnsworthy) brouhaha concerning the Orange Prize has died down …. and I’m safe to post about this year’s longlist …. or rather those that I managed to reserve by means of a virtual trolley dash around the library online catalogue. Voila!
From left to right around the bowl (if such a thing is possible): The Road Home – Rose Tremain, Fault Lines – Nancy Huston, The Keep – Jennifer Egan, Lottery - Patricia Wood, Sorry – Gail Jones. I also have Linda Grant’s The Clothes on Their Backs on reserve. Where to start? Alphabetically? Reverse alphabetically? By title? By author? The most appealing? This whittled the list to two. The Huston or the Egan. The McLuhan test had the deciding vote …. but would you come to the same decision?
it with his nonparalyzed arm. The dark cypress and blue sky turned crazily over his head.
Martha: What’s going on? Are you okay? She sounded not scared, exactly, but anxious. Danny was in too much pain to enjoy it.
I’m fine. He was wheezing. Sweat pricked him under his arms and around his groin. He hauled himself into a sitting position.
Martha: Talk to me. Is it your knee?
She cared about him, it was obvious. Danny kept discovering this right when he wasn’t expecting to, right when he’d given up on Martha, and then as soon as he’d figured it out she would make him forget all over again. Now Danny had one of those clear seconds where everything extra kind of drops away and all you see is what’s actually there. He saw himself with Martha. He got a feeling of peace. Then the phone started shorting out and Danny’s eyes hooked on something he didn’t comprehend at first, but then he did – oh fuck, he did – the satellite dish in the black pool, sinking.
Danny (bellowing): No!
He jumped up, lunging for the dish. It was already halfway underwater. Somehow he must have kicked it in when he tripped, or could that be the thing he’d tripped on? It was too far away from the pool’s edge for Danny to grab it and fish it back out, so he flattened himself gut-down on the marble and stuck his torso straight out over the pool as far as it would go and tightened his ass and grabbed the rim of the dish with two fingers of each hand and tried to ease it back out without bending at the wasit and dunking his head, and that’s when the smell got him – oh God, what a smell: not rot but something after rot, a moldy emptiness, the smell of stale pollen, bad breath, old refrigerators that haven’t been opened in years, rotten eggs and certain wool when it got wet, the afterbirth of his cat Polly when Danny was six, his aching tooth when the dentist first drilled it open, the nursing home where Great aunt-Bertie dribbled pureed liver down her chin, that place under the bridge near school where
sticks her hand into the back seat and takes G.G.’s hand. Even more unexpected is that G.G. takes her hand and strokes it gently.
She’s the one who says, “Here, Randall. You can turn left here and park. Yes. It’s that building right over there.”
We go through the usual rigmarole, hoisting the wheelchair out of the trunk, opening it up, helping Grandma Sadie into it, locking the car doors, the whole bit. People in the street stare at us as if we were a circus act and I hate seeing how conspicuous we are, this oddball collection of English-speakers including a cripple in a wig and a wispy white-haired witch and a little boy with a Star Wars kippa on his head. I wish I could zap their eyes with a laser beam to force them to look away from us but at long last we find ourselves inside the building.
The corridor seems pitch dark after the brightness of outside, but Grandma Sadie propels herself down it, leading the way. As Mom and I follow, holding hands, Mom bends down and says to me in a whisper, “Maybe you should take your hat off, sweet.” Bringing up the rear, G.G. is clinging to Dad’s arm which she wouldn’t normally do but today she’s walking slowly, so slowly that they drag a long way behind, and eventually she stops.
“What’s the matter?” yells Sadie, having now reached the elevator at the far end of the hall.
“Her heart’s beating too fast,” Dad calls back. “She’s going to take a nitro. Can you wait a minute?”
“Of course we can wait a minute,” says Grandma Sadie. “So we wait a minute.”
G.G. draws a little bottle of medicine from her bag, shakes a couple of pills into the palm of her hand, claps her palm to her
Which would you read first?