Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quotes

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pp. 2-9

BEGINNING

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ONE

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pp. 3-14

Begins with the call of a crow, a lone crow. Reedy, repetitive caw. He is out there high and all alone in the budding branches of the sweet gum tree next door. Peter Taylor’s sweet gum tree, close by the toothpick fence marking the line between his place and mine. A handsome old tree. ...

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TWO

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pp. 15-17

The conventional answer to that question is that you can, of course, make up a story out of anything, based on any model— an obituary, a letter of recommendation, a checkbook, a rejection slip, an application for a fellowship, a letter of resignation, and so on—if i t works. And that always remains to be seen, doesn’t it? ...

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THREE

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pp. 18-31

How odd to be old. Hadn’t planned on it. I am unprepared for it like everybody else. But, of course, it’s here and now and it has been for a while even as I enjoyed my own happy state of being well deceived. ...

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FOUR

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pp. 32-35

I have trouble with names. The names in my fiction never seem to me quite right. But without proper names, somehow appropriate (to me if not to anybody else), the work does not seem fully fictional or functional either. ...

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FIVE

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pp. 36-39

I knew some hot dogs and crazies in the army who, placed at the steering wheel of a 6-by or a deuce-and-a-half or a jeep or a three-quarter ton or, as was the case in my old outfit, a fourteen-ton, high-speed tractor pulling a 155mm howitzer behind it, instantly became a menace to one and all. ...

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SIX

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pp. 40-45

In the writing trade I have long since learned that a great many of my colleagues are slowly and steadily creating interesting fictive lives. Their book jacket biographical notes are apt to be a bit more colorful than they might be if hard, factual truth-telling were the principal criterion. ...

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SEVEN

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pp. 46-50

Another possible epigraph for this story: “It is self-evident that nothing concerning art is self-evident anymore, not its inner life, not its relation to the world, not even its right to exist.”— Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetische Theorie. That little beauty ought to give everything a good old-fashioned intellectual goose. ...

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EIGHT

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pp. 51-59

These two imaginary men, Aubrey and Frank, are, of course, “bookish” people. They read a lot. “Nasty, bookish, and short,” that was Frank’s lame little joke about himself and Aubrey, a weary pun, to be sure, but one that nevertheless served to break up Aubrey’s habitual mask of calm indifference ...

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NINE

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pp. 60-64

Peter Taylor did not have a dog while we lived as neighbors. I don’t know if he ever owned a dog or any cats. I assumed, for no good reason except deep-rooted regional custom and tradition, that at some point or another, he must have had a dog.* Certainly he always displayed a friendly neighbor’s interest in my dog—James, ...

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TEN

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pp. 65-72

Having acknowledged that the age of these people is a problem, I must also add that the “academic connection” presents a problem too. The “academic novel” has been kicking around for more than a half-century, a well-explored and well-exploited genre, good ones and bad ones and (surprise, surprise) mostly mediocre, ...

MIDDLE

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ELEVEN

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pp. 75-77

I need to say a word or two about the importance of snail mail to all of the housebound and especially to most of my generation. You might think that we would eagerly avail ourselves of the latest technology—e-mail, fax machines, cell phones, or, at the least, the speed and efficiency of UPS, FedEx, and so forth. ...

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TWELVE

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pp. 78-83

Frank knows very well what Aubrey means to ask him, and the occasion for it, in this case a negative notice—“a really shitty review,” Frank would call it—Frank received for his most recent book in the “In Brief” section of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. ...

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THIRTEEN

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pp. 84-89

Anne has been married to Frank Toomer for almost fifty years. That anniversary is coming up in 2003, and the happy occasion will bring together, for the first time in a long time, their three children—Frank Jr. and Marty and Courtney, the daughter. All three children are married with children and lives of their own. ...

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FOURTEEN

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pp. 90-91

Context, as they say, is almost everything. When I first began writing down these words (with a fat, cigar-shaped, black Mont Blanc pen and a yellow legal pad) it was, in fact, early springtime in Charlottesville. The time of the story was to be the previous summer of 2001. It would begin on my birthday, June 11, 2001. ...

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FIFTEEN

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pp. 92-94

In the New York Times Book Review for Sunday, July 22, 2001— therefore something Frank Toomer would have seen—there is a review by Jay McInerney of a new novel, Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale (Farrar Straus), by Chuck Kinder. ...

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SIXTEEN

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pp. 95-98

This is not a review or a book report, not even of the briefest imaginable kind. Nor is this a blurb. The dust jacket of Honeymooners is well freighted, highly decorated with plenty of colorful blurb lingo offered up to us by the likes of Scott Turow, Michael Chabon, Larry McMurtry, and Richard Ford. ...

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SEVENTEEN

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pp. 99-100

In this entire story so far, from the beginning, I had forgotten about a fictional and quite different “Aubrey” to be found in and taken from the fiction of Peter Taylor. I mean, of course, Aubrey Tucker Bradbury, the mysterious and elusive figure from “Cousin Aubrey,” a story collected in Peter’s final book—The Oracle at Stoneleigh Court (Knopf 1993) ...

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EIGHTEEN

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pp. 101-105

Ideally, and making full allowance for the continual tidal overlapping of past and present and future, this story, loose and baggy as it is and has to be, should take place within the context of a limited time frame. ...

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NINETEEN

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pp. 106-114

Sorry but I have to consider politics in telling this story. We have lived, and continue to, in an age when everything down to the breakfast cereals we eat, the soda pop we drink, the baseball teams we root for—all, all, all are politicized. But more than that, more imperative than any checklist of late twentieth and early twenty-first century concerns, ...

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TWENTY

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pp. 115-117

Eileen Carver, still Frank and Anne Toomer’s next-door neighbor, though soon, she says, to move away either to a nearby and rather elegant Episcopalian “retirement community,” out on Route 250 West, or else to a Gulf Coast condo on the Florida panhandle, just as soon as son Jerry sells the house. ...

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TWENTY-ONE

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pp. 118-122

As I said earlier (pardon the repetition), one of the problems with literary biographies is that they don’t deal in any meaningful detail with the serious subject of money. They go along merrily talking about almost everything else, but then they begin to tiptoe when they come to things involving dollars and cents, ...

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TWENTY-TWO

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pp. 123-132

We were all soldiers, did our time in the service, anyway, one time or another. I am here talking about Frank Toomer and Peter Taylor, myself, and Aubrey Carver. Fact is that Aubrey was in the navy in World War II and he alone among us was a commissioned officer. Peter Taylor was an enlisted man, a sergeant. ...

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TWENTY-THREE

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pp. 133-142

The last time I saw Aubrey Carver he didn’t seem to be knock, knock, knocking at heaven’s gate. In fact, he seemed animated, quite lively. His color was all right, his eyes bright, his speech clear and unslurred. ...

ENDING

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TWENTY-FOUR

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pp. 145-151

Came in the mail today the latest issue of The New Virginia Review, edited by Mary Flinn. Titled “Remembering Larry Levis,” it’s a memorial for the late Larry Levis (1946–96), consisting of fifty-four poems, statements, memoirs, tributes, even a fair-sized critical article by poet Dave Smith, and a poem by Levis. ...

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TWENTY-FIVE

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pp. 152-153

When I really thought I was going to die, I was a lot better off. Not a better man, mind you. I didn’t allow myself to fall victim to nostalgia and regret. I didn’t secretly and inwardly take back anything, not even some really important things, the kinds of sins that have maimed me, left me with sincere regrets, scarred me with sorrows. ...

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TWENTY-SIX

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pp. 154-156

This was to be Eileen’s last day here and she had come next door to say goodbye. On the other side of the fence, in the fine shingled house, movers were bringing out boxes and furniture and loading up a moving van. At moments they could hear Jerry Carver issuing orders in an authentic drill sergeant’s voice. ...

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TWENTY-SEVEN

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pp. 157-162

I really hate myself for what I am about to do to you. I’ve never done this or, really, anything like it before now. And I hope you will bear that in mind and keep me in mind for a next time—down the road. ...

BEGIN AGAIN

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TWENTY-EIGHT

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pp. 165-173

A rainy summer Sunday in Jefferson. Soft, steady rain falling on the just and unjust. Badly needed. Not only for the sun-stricken flowers and gardens of this town, but out in the country coming just in time to save the corn crop and give a second crop of hay a good dousing. Lovely sound of rain on leaves. ...

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POSTSCRIPT

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pp. 174-176

Greene (1558–92) was a poet, pamphleteer, playwright, novelist, sometime criminal, and a close contemporary of William Shakespeare. It is to Shakespeare, whom he apparently deeply disliked, that Greene owes the fact that he is now remembered by anyone at all. ...

Further Reading, Series Page, Back Cover

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pp. 177-181