A list of books I’ve read in 2007 (if you want 2006’s book list, it’s here). A brief description of each. And the first few lines.
1. Slaughter-House-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.
Kicking off 2007 with Vonnegut! Recommended by my friend Alexandra. Totally non-linear, groundbreaking work. It opened up new ways to narrate a story and gave me some new ideas for my own work. Of course, I also happened to have a stroke while reading this thing, so I have a foggy memory of it, which just adds to the surrealistic nature of this work.
First few lines:
“All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn’t his. Another guy I knew really didthreaten to have his personal enemies killed by third gunmen after the war. And so on. I’ve changed all the names.”
2. About Alice by Calvin Trillin
This is the first book I completed reading after my stroke. I remember the excerpt from The New Yorker and feeling so inspired by his love for his late wife, and so I was completely drawn to this book once it came out. In fact, in both my post-stroke short term memory addled state and this unique draw to the story…I bought TWO copies of the book. A short read (a small book, and less then 80 pages long), but incredibly touching–you’ll want to be Alice.
First few lines:
“There was one condolence letter that made me laugh. Naturally, a lot of them made me cry. Some of those, oddly enough, were from people who had never met Alice…Virtually all those letters began in the same way, with a phrase like ‘Even though I never really knew Alice…’ I was certain of what Alice’s response might have been. ‘They’re right about that,’ she would have said. ‘They never knew me.'”
3. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
I finished this! I bought the book last summer after great anticipation but for some reason, never felt the mood to read a short story collection even Murakami’s short story collection. Of course, my stroke changed all that–making me only able to read short stories and short novels. This is a great overall collection, not always full of stellar stories but showing the great range of Murakami as story teller. This is THE BOOK I’ve been reading since the stroke, beginning at 1 page a day, working towards 3-4, and now up to about 30 pages/day. I’m so glad that this is the book I started reading, I can only hope to retain some of his mastery.
Btw, it was a totally conscious decision on my part to make Murakami the first author to read after my stroke.
First few lines of the first short story, the titular “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman”:
When I closed my eyes, the scent of the wind wafted up toward me. A May wind, swelling up like a piece of fruit, with a rough outer skin, slimy flesh, dozens of seeds. The flesh split open in midair, spraying seeds like gentle buckshot into the bare skin of my arms, leaving behind a faint trace of pain.
4. A Man Without A Country by Kurt Vonnegut
A book of Vonnegut’s essays, ranging from his views on politics, his family history, his art, writing, all accompanied by delicious quotes like, “But now I am eight-two. Thanks a lot, you dirty rats. The last thing I ever wanted was to be alive when the three most powerful people on the whole planet would be named Bush, Dick and Colon.”
Another notable quote is “…I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”
And “‘…what you respond to in any work of art is the artist’s struggle against his or her limitations.'”
Plus, the book is super short, and that is sometimes the best thing ever.
First few lines of the book:
“As a kid I was the youngest member of my family, and the youngest child in any family is always a jokemaker, because a joke is the only way he can enter into an adult conversation. My sister was five years older than I was, my brother was nine years older than I was, and my parents were both talkers. So at the dinner table when I was very young, I was boring to all those other people…”
5. Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words by Jay Rubin
I purchased this book while in London, excited to see a book written on Murakami’s literature by one of his major translators, Jay Rubin. Definitely a read for Murakami fans, I learned a little about Murakami’s life, and I got to read literary criticism of his work from a perspective that read much like a montage of his writings from Hear the Wind Sing to Kafka on the Shore.
Admittedly, this book took at least a month for me to read–the combination of the denseness of the reading and all the happenings in my life kept me from reading this book quickly at all.
The first few lines of the book are rather banal, given that this book is literary criticism. So I’ll give you a few lines from elsewhere:
“Elsewhere Murakami has written on style: ‘At first, I tried writing realistically, but it was unreadable. So then I tried redoing the opening in English. I translated that into Japanese and worked on it a little more. Writing in English, my vocabulary was limited, and I couldn’t write long sentences. So that way a kind of rhythm took hold, with relatively few words and short sentences.’ It was a tone he had sensed in Vonnegut and Brautigan.”
6. In the Shadow of Memory by Floyd Skloot
Recommended to me by Barking Kitten in the wake of my stroke. The first third and the last quarter of the book was an amazing memoir of Skloot’s illness that left him with great brain deficits. I found myself reading the book with a pen in hand, furiously underlining and marking passages that spoke to me, that rang true, that made me feel less lonely, that made me want to shout. I’m not a fan of the middle, where he makes a foray into his family history–without tying it back to his brain injury–it just sort of floats there. What does his mother have to do with his brain? His father? Ah. At the end, it’s tied back together. But this book is worth reading for the first chapters. I wish I’d read it sooner.
First few lines:
“I used to be able to think. My brain’s circuits were all connected and I had spark, a quickness of mind that let me function well in the world. I could reason and total up numbers; I could find the right word, could hold a thought in mind, match faces with names, converse coherently in crowded hallways, learn new tasks. I had a memory and an intuition that I could trust.”
7. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
Not my favorite Murakami novel, but not my least favorite, either (that would be Hard Boiled Wonderland). I know that part of the point of this novel is to give this sort of cinema verite snapshot of the night…but it just doesn’t pull it off, though I still enjoyed the book because I am such a Murakami fan. But the narrative voice was odd–at times it was very distant, like that cinema verite camera…at other times, it tried to get very close in the minds of the characters. In the end, it was just confusing and disorienting.
“Eyes mark the shape of the city.
Through the eyes of a high-flying night bird, we take in the scene from midair. In our broad sweep, the city looks like a single gigantic creature–or more like a single collective entity created by many intertwining organisms. Countless arteries stretch to the ends of its elusive body, circulating a continuous supply of fresh blood cells, sending out new data and collecting the old, sending out new consumables and collecting the old, sending out new contradictions and collecting the old. To the rhythm of its pulsing, all parts of the body flicker and flare up and squirm. Midnight is approaching, and while the peak of activity has passed, the basal metabolism that maintains life continues undiminished, producing the basso continuo of the city’s moan, a monotonous sound that neither rises nor falls but is pregnant with foreboding.”
8. The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
National Book Award winner. Story about a character with a brain injury. Given to me by a friend (thank you thank you!). All signs pointing me to read this book! And Powers does have some languid prose that creates a crisp landscape in my mind. I will, for instance, never forget the cranes that he describes throughout the book. I mean, check out the opening lines below–are they not gorgeous?
But. But! The book’s momentum (ie., plot) is very slow. Maybe it’s my mood (I LOVED the book Out of Africa as a child–I mean, that scene with the buffalo emerging from the morning fog is etched in my mind, but my friend said it went TOOO slow–maybe I am in the “Tooo slow” mindset). There are hooks at the beginning of the novel such as whether or not Karin Schluter’s brother Mark will get better…and what that note by his bedside table means…but there needed to have been more forward momentum, more questions. Wondering what a note meant was not enough for me to flip through the beginning pages–apparently it was important for Karin, but it wasn’t important enough for me.
Karin is a very limited character, one that brings down the sparkle of the novel when it focuses on her. I liked Mark MUCH better and was glad when the novel began to focus on him.
…Maybe it is my overfeeding on Murakami, but I was hoping the book would be a little “sloppier”–the prose in this book was too…neat and tidy. I wanted MORE!
First few lines:
“Cranes keep landing as night falls. Ribbons of them roll down, slack against the sky. They float in from all compass points, in kettles of a dozen, dropping with the dusk. Scores of Grus canadensis settle on the thawing river. They gather on the island flats, grazing, beating their wings, trmpeting: the advance wave of a mass evacuation. More birds land by the minute, the air red with calls.”
9. Birthday Stories by Haruki Murakami
This is an anthology of lots of wonderful stories–seemingly eclectic but tied together through that theme of Birthdays (and also tied together by the fact that they were all chosen by Haruki Murakami). It’s an amazing exploration of birthdays told by a diverse group of writers, from various nations, of different genders and generations. My favorites are the choices of Ethan Canin (“Angel of Mercy, Angel of Wrath”), Raymond Carver (“The Bath”), and William Trevor (“Timothy’s Birthday”).
As for Murakami’s short story in the book, it is a little gem called “Birthday Girl” that he wrote specifically for this anthology–though not rivaling most of the stories in his other collections such as my favorite, After the Quake.
If you’re a Murakami fan, you might be disappointed in that he has only one story in this anthology–but then again, you might love reading the stories through his eyes–after all, he picked these short stories.
First few lines of Murakami’s short story, “Birthday Girl”:
“She waited on tables as usual that day, her twentieth birthday. She always worked on Fridays, but if things had gone according to plan on that particular Friday, she would have taken the night off. The other part-time girl had agreed to switch shifts with her as a matter of course: being screamed at by an angry chef while lugging pumpkin gnocchi and seafood fritto to customers’ tables was no way to spend one’s twentieth birthday. But the other girl had aggravated a cold and gone to bed with unrelenting diarrhoea and a temperature of 104, so she ended up working after all at short notice.”
10. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
This is the first book I’ve ever read by McEwan. And I am in love–he is a master of his craft! I found myself poring over his command of writing–the way he can tackle things that I am so afraid to tackle in my writing, with such confidence and ease and brilliance. This book, for instance, is full of flashbacks, something I think is incredibly difficult to pull off and something I think most writers should refrain from writing. McEwan flips back and forth through time, providing readers with backstory throughout a book that focuses on 2 characters on their wedding night.
On top of this command of writing flashbacks, Ian McEwan also has an incredible way of “slowing down” his writing–spending pages and pages and lines on what would otherwise be a brief moment in time. It is captivating and oh so incredible–and in the pages describing the more intimate moments of their wedding night so tense and titillating. I learned so much from this novel, as a writer…and enjoyed this novel very much, as a reader.
And I must mention–the opening paragraph of this novel is blockbuster. The whole trajectory of the story is right there. McEwan is what Tobias Wolff (someone whose writing I do like, but whose writing seems very forced and way too “neat” and contrived at times) wants to be.
First few lines:
“They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible. But it is never easy. They had just sat down to supper in a tiny sitting room on the first floor of a Georgian inn. In the next room, visible through the open door, was a four-poster bed, rather narrow, whose bedcover was pure white and stretched startingly smooth, as though by no human hand. Edward did not mention that he had never stayed in a hotel before, whereas Florence, after many trips as a child with her father, was an old hand. Superficially, they were in fine spirits.”
11. The Nimrod Flip Out by Etgar Keret
I had no expectations when I picked up this collection of short stories. It was, along with other books, a surprise gift from a friend–would I like the books? Would I like the stories? I wondered. And oh boy–I certainly do like the stories in this collection!
Etgar Keret is now on my radar–his writing reminds me of Aimee Bender’s short stories, whimsical and so reminiscent of fairy tales, only with a very dark twist. (For instance, a story entitled “Pride and Joy” is about a boy who keeps growing taller at the sacrifice his parents’ height–will they disappear?)
Well, he’d be Aimee Bender if she were male, Israeli, steeped with a certain staccato rhythm–oh wait, he’s a bit different than Aimee Bender, isn’t he? (For instance, “Surprise Egg” revolves around the victim of a terrorist bombing and the philosophical wondering of the coroner. In another story, “Ironclad Rules,” a man gets some advice about his marriage–and the reader encounters a very ironic twist).
He does some fantastic things with the craft of writing, too–“A Good Looking Couple” is an incredible and delightful exercise in shifting perspective, as each character (including the dog and television) gets a paragraph of narration. His stories turn the world inside out. Additionally, the authority and whimsy of his voice is striking, and I think I’ll learn something from him.
He is brave and bold, and his writing is sometimes very imperfect but who loves “perfect” writing anyway? Imperfection is what makes things interesting and real.
I think I’m a fan.
First few lines of the book’s opening story, “Fatso”:
“Surprised? Of course I was surprised. You go out with a girl. First date, second date, a restaurant here, a movie there, always just matinees. You start sleeping together, the sex is mind-blowing, and pretty soon there’s feeling too. And then, one day, she shows up in tears, and you hug her and tell her to take it easy, everything’s going to be OK, and she says she can’t stand it anymore, she has this secret, not just a secret, something really awful, a curse, something she’s been wanting to tell you from the beginning but she didn’t have the guts. this thing, it’s been weighing her down, and now she’s got to tell you, she’s simply got to, but she knows that as soon as she does, you’ll leave her, and you’ll be absolutely right to leave her, too. And then she starts crying all over again.”
12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
The last book! I finished it in 2 days of reading–two nights of straight obsession. J.K. Rowling may employ themes that are welltrodden, her language may be decent but not extraordinary, and her plots may be inspired from Tolkien or Star Wars or whatever, but she is the master of characterization.
I often do not remember the plots of her novel, thus leading me to really enjoy her movies (did that happen in the novel? I guess it did…) but I am totally connected to her characters, their lives on the page, and their wellbeing. And even the evil characters, whose wellbeing I could care less about, are entrancing and unique.
I’ve got a lesson to learn from her in that regard.
First few lines of the book:
“The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane. For a second they stood quite still, wands directed at each other’s chests; then, recognizing each other, they stowed their wands beneath their cloaks and started walking briskly in the same direction.
‘News?’ asked the taller of the two.
‘The best,’ replied Severus Snape.
The lane was bordered on the left by wild, low-growing brambles, on the right by a high, neatly manicured hedge. The men’s long cloaks flapped around their ankles as they marched.”
13. Roasting in Hell’s Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay
I love Gordon Ramsay. If you like him too, then you’ll like this book, which is just full of his voice and colloquialisms. It is also remarkably open and frank–so in sum total it felt a lot like sitting down and listening to him talk, uncensored and with all candor. It was a quick delicious read.
First few lines of the book:
“The first thing I can remember? The Barras–in Glasgow. It’s a market–the roughest, most extraordinary place, people bustling, full of second-hand shit. Of course, we were used to second-hand shit. In that sense, I had a Barras kind of childhood. But things needn’t really have been that bad. Mostly, the way our life was depended on whether or not Dad was working–and when I was born, in Thornhill Maternity Hospital in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, he was working. Amazingly enough.”
14. Straight Man by Richard Russo
I love books that are set on college campuses, especially if the characters are faculty. For instance, I like David Lodge’s Changing Places, a very transparent portrayal of UC Berkeley and its English faculty (love it!), and Michael Chabon’s Wonderboys, which is not so much about the faculty but about someone who happens to be a professor.
Straight Man is about a professor at a poorly funded college in Pennsylvania–and all the hilarity of its faculty and the transitions within his life. It’s funny. It’s hilarious. I mean, hello, the paperback has a big white goose on its otherwise plain red cover. The narrator is a well read writer, so the voice is chatty, ascerbic, and endearing…and the prose will knock your socks off.
First few lines of the book:
“When my nose finally stops bleeding and I’ve disposed of the bloody paper towels, Teddy Barnes insists on driving me home in his ancient Honda Civic, a car that refuses to die and that Teddy, cheap as he is, refuses to trade in. June, his wife, whose sense of self-worth is not easily tilted, drives a new Saab. ‘That seat goes back,’ Teddy says, observing that my knees are practically under my chin.”
15. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
I want to write like this. It’s epic, the language is beautiful, the voice is crackling, the story heartbreaking. That’s all I’ll say. I hope he writes his next book with great speed because I want MORE.
First few lines of the book:
“Our hero was not one of those Dominican cats everyone’s always going on about–he wasn’t no home-run hitter or a fly bachatero, not a playboy with a million hots on his jock.
And except for one period early in his life, dude never had much luck with the females (how very un-Dominican of him).
He was seven then.”
16. Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler
A collection of 26 essays (and at least one short story–Murakami’s wonderful “The Year of Spaghetti”) about cooking and/or dining solo. I found myself getting incredibly lonely reading these stories one after another. Plus it did get repetitive–it’s remarkable how many common threads there are to dining alone. All these writers, men, women, living in different geological areas, from different cultures, overcame the same feelings, the same resistance, and felt the same unsteady victory of dining alone. And the scenarios? Also similar: post-breakup, post-college, living in a studio apartment, a spouse that constantly worked late thereby leaving the writer to fend for him/herself, etc., etc. In some ways, they were the same story over and over again. Some other essays seemed in a rush to hand off a representative recipe of dining alone. So I decided to read it in sections instead. That was quite nice.
First few lines of the book (from the title essay, “Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant” by Laura Colwin):
“For eight years I lived in a one-room apartment a little larger than the Columbia Encyclopedia. It is lucky I never met Wilt Chamberlain because if I had invited him in for coffee he would have been unable to spread his arms in my room, which was roughly seven by twenty.
I had enough space for a twin-sized bed, a very small night table, and a desk. This desk, which I use to this day, was meant for a child of, say, eleven…Instead of a kitchen, this minute apartment featured a metal counter.”
17. Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo
It has taken me nearly four years to get around to reading this book, the favorite book of Daniel Alarcon, and so many other aspiring and great writers. And I read it, because a professor of mine assigned it for class. This book is WAY smarter than me. I’ve read it twice and I don’t think I grasped all that it offered. It’s the founding novel of magical realism, the book that inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez and One Hundred Years of Solitude! I have to read it five more times, I think.
First few lines of the book:
“I came to Comala because had been told that my father, a man named Pedro Paramo, lived there. It was my mother who told me. And I had promised her that after she died I would go see him. I squeezed her hands as a sign I would do it. She was near death, and I would have promised her anything.”
18. Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
This short story collection has been sitting on my bookshelf for years now, patiently waiting to be read. I bought it on recommendation of a friend, and somehow, I was never in the state of mind to settle down and read the stories, or wanted to read something else. But my passion has turned towards reading short story collections these days, and I remember my professor telling me last year how much she admired this short story collection. So–I picked it up. Lorrie Moore is just so brutal with her characters, and the acing so careful and detailed. At times it was agonizing to read on behalf of her characters, but it was so brilliant. Her language–wow, there is something to learn from her use of language.
First few lines of the short story, “People Like That Are The Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk”:
“A beginning, an end: there seems to be neither. The whole thing is like a cloud that just lands and everywhere inside it is full of rain. A start: the Mother finds a blood clot in the Baby’s diaper. What is the story? Who put this here? It is big and bright, with a broken khaki-colored vein in it. Over the weekend, the Baby had looked listless and spacey, clayey and grim. But today he looks fine–so what is this thing, startling aginst the white diaper, like a tiny mouse heart packed in snow?”
19. The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
A prime example of “scaffolding” for a book–the chapters are named after various elements of the chemist’s periodic table. Some chapters have nebulous connections to elements, other chapters have a more overt connection, but either way, brilliant. The theme brings all the essays together.
First few lines:
“There are the so-called inert gases in the air we breathe. They bear curious Greek names of erudite derivation which mean ‘the New,’ ‘the Hidden,’ ‘the Inactive,’ and ‘the Alien.’ They are indeed so inert, so satisfied with their condition, that they do not interfere in any chemical reaction, do not combine with any other element, and for precisely this reason have gone undetected for centuries.”
20. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
I was pointed towards Graham Greene by two people whose opinion I really value, whose opinions have forged my writing. (The first suggestion came years ago from an editor, the second suggestion last week from my friend and professor). It took me awhile to get around to reading his work–and this is the first time I’ve ever read Greene. OMG! What took me so long? His narrative style is careful and emotionally measured–and yet it is still full of warmth and great passion. His language is so brilliant, and it’s not just language for language’s sake either–I was crying the last third of the novel, I was so touched. I was a quarter of the way through Ian McEwan’s Atonement when I bought The End of the Affair–sorry, McEwan. I ditched you for Greene.
I am soooo looking forward to reading his other works.
First few lines:
“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead. I say ‘one chooses’ with the inaccurate pride of a professional writer who–when he has been seriously noted at all–has been praised for his technical ability, but do I in fact of my will choose that black wet January night on the Common, in 1946, the sight of Henry Miles slanting across the wide river of rain, or did these images choose me?”
21. Atonement by Ian McEwan
A devastating plot–it just made me feel awfully sad and full of grief–though I found McEwan’s prose memorable and oh-so-beautiful. The novel was thoroughly engaging from Book 2 and onward–Book 1 was a careful set up, and as a reader, I was very aware that the pieces were slowly and meticulously put in place. I am always fascinated by writers who foreshadow (like Ann Patchett in Bel Canto who lets us know straight away, the ending of the book). There are beautiful lines like, “Within the half hour [she/he] would commit her crime,” and “This decision, as he was to acknowledge many times, transformed [his/her] life.” (I took out the names and put in both gender references, so I wouldn’t ruin the plot for you). The lines told us what would happen, and I was propelled forward by the clear bell.
But note: do not read if you want to feel upbeat and happy afterwards.
First few lines:
“The play–for which Briony had designed the posters, programs and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crepe paper–was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch. When the preparations were complete, she had nothing to do but contemplate her finished draft and wait for the appearance of her cousins from the distant north.”
22. Mothers and Sons by Colm Toibin (accent marks over the “i’s” missing)
I love making new discoveries–wow, what a writer. Each of the stories in this collection revolve around the relationship of a mother and son, sometimes at its most heartbreaking moment. Toibin (again, with the accent marks of the “i’s” missing because I can’t figure out how to put them in on this keyboard) was recommended to me by a writing mentor of mine…and then just two weeks later, I found out he is a friend of a friend. I can’t help but think that fate, yet again, brought me to his work.
The plot of each story is remarkable–big twists that are presented so carefully that they do not ring false at all…and the characters are so alive and beautiful. There were a number of big winners for me in the collection–and a novella, “A Long Winter,” that will stay in my memory for quite some time. Definitely a short story collection to savor.
First few lines of “Three Friends”:
“On the Monday, when the others had gone to the hotel for lunch, Fergus stayed alone with his mother’s body in the funeral parlor. She would, he knew, have so far enjoyed her own funeral. The hush of conversation with old friends, the conjuring up of memories, the arrival of people she would not have seen for years, all of this would have put a gleam into her eyes. But she would not, he thought, have enjoyed being alone now in the shadowy candlelight with her son, all the life gone out of her. She was not enjoying herself now, he thought.”
23. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
This is a book about the novelist Barbara Kingsolver’s yearlong foray into eating locally with her family. I read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore Dilemma last year and…to be honest, despite my respect for Kingsolver’s prose…the book fades in the shadow of Pollan’s book. I think if you’ve not read Omnivore’s Dilemma, you might like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle a lot more than I did (especially the exposition about eating locally, and why it’s important, etc., etc.–read Pollan for that). I can’t help but think she got to write this book because she is a Famous Novelist. Still, I liked the anecdotes about her farm, her daughters, and the specific ways in which they fared during that year.
First few lines:
“This story about good food begins in a quick-stop convenience market. It was our family’s last day in Arizona, where I’d lived half my lie and raised two kids for the whole of theirs. Now we were moving away forever, taking our nostalgic inventory of the things we would never see again: the bush where the roadrunner built a nest and fed lizards to her weird-looking babies; the tree Camille crashed into learning to ride a bike; the exact spot where Lily touched a dead snake. Our driveway was just the first tributary on a memory river sweeping us out.”
24. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
I don’t like this book as much as End of the Affair in terms of storyline, but he did some interesting things with treatment of time and suspense and such. How did he go back and forth in time? How could he manage (succesfully) so many flashbacks? It was fascinating and inventive. In both books, things commence with a death–intriguing. Again, he is the master–I normally HATE novels set during wartime, but I plowed through this book.
First few lines:
“After dinner I sat and waited for Pyle in my room over the rue Catinat; he had said, ‘I’ll be with you at least by ten,’ and when midnight struck I couldn’t stay quiet any longer and went down into the street. A lot of old women in black trousers squatted on the landing: it was February and I suppose too hot for them in bed. One trishaw driver pedalled slowly by towards the riverfront and I could see lamps burning where they had disemarked the new American planes. There was no sign of Pyle anywhere in the long street.”