Short Story Of the Day (Flash Fiction) A Trace of Music by Robert Garner McBrearty

During all my drinking days, I listened for that music and thought it might be worth continuing to drink just to hear it once more. But, of course, it wasn’t.

—-Robert Garner McBrearty, A Trace of Music

Music at Ciclovia Dallas

Working my knee back with ice, rest and ibuprofen. Yesterday, I rode my spin bike on very light resistance for an hour and today, one week after I slipped coming out of the shower and twisted my knee, I rode my road bike for the first time – five miles around the ‘hood. It was fine – not entirely pain-free, but bearable. Maybe ten miles tomorrow after work (I have to work, I am essential). The nice thing about the road bike is that with my feet clipped in they are held rigid with no lateral flex in my leg or knee. That helps. It’s a bitch getting my shoes on, however.

A day at a time – small improvements – each day a little better than the day before.

Like in today’s story….

Read it here:

A Trace of Music by Robert Garner McBrearty

from Heart of Flesh Literary Journal

Robert Garner McBrearty Homepage

 

L’Assommoir

“While the storm was erupting, she stayed, staring at it, watching the shafts of lightning, like someone who could see serious things, far away in the future in these sudden flashes of light.”
Emile Zola, L’Assommoir

 I am now a good chunk (have been reading for a year and a half) into Emile Zola’s twenty volume Rougon Macquat series of novels. Attacking this pile of books in the recommended reading order:

  • La Fortune des Rougon (1871) (The Fortune of the Rougons)
  • Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (1876) (His Excellency Eugene Rougon/ His Excellency)
  • La Curée (1871-2) (The Kill)
  • L’Argent (1891) (Money)
  • Le Rêve (1888) (The Dream)
  • La Conquête de Plassans (1874) (The Conquest of Plassans/A Priest in the House)
  • Pot-Bouille (1882) (Pot Luck/Restless House/Piping Hot)
  • Au Bonheur des Dames (1883) (The Ladies’ Paradise/Shop Girls of Paris/Ladies’ Delight)
  • La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret (1875) (The Sin of Father Mouret/Abbe Mouret’s Transgression)
  • Une Page d’amour (1878) (A Lesson in Love/A Love Episode/A Page of Love/A Love Affair)
  • Le Ventre de Paris (1873) (The Belly of Paris/The Fat and the Thin/Savage Paris/The Markets of Paris)
  • La Joie de Vivre (1884) (The Joys of Living/Joy of Life/How Jolly Life Is/Zest for Life)
  • L’Assommoir (1877) (The Dram Shop/The Gin Palace/Drink/Drunkard)
  • L’Œuvre (1886) (The Masterpiece/A Masterpiece/His Masterpiece)
  • La Bête Humaine (1890) (The Beast in the Man/The Human Beast/The Monomaniac)
  • Germinal (1885)
  • Nana (1880)
  • La Terre (1887) (The Earth/The Soil)
  • La Débâcle (1892) (The Downfall/The Smash-up/The Debacle)
  • Le Docteur Pascal (1893) (Doctor Pascal)

The next one up (the thirteenth) was L’Assommoir – I picked up an excellent Penguin Classics translation by Robin Buss entitled The Drinking Den (there is no good English translation for the French word L’Assommoir).

L’Absinthe (detail) by Edgar Degas

From the article 10 Intoxicating Facts About Edgar Degas’s L’Absinthe

9. IT INSPIRED A LITERARY MASTERPIECE.

L’Assommoir by celebrated French novelist Émile Zola was an exploration of alcoholism among the poor of Paris. Zola must have seen the painting during its disastrous 1876 debut, as his book was published the following year. The author credited Degas for some of L’Assommoir ‘s imagery, telling him, “I quite plainly described some of your pictures in more than one place in my pages.”

It took me five months to finish  L’Assommoir – well, actually I read it in a week – I spent five months reading other stuff. I guess that’s all right.

After reading La Joie de Vivre  I had to decide –  I had already read L’Assommoir – along with four of the next five. Years ago, before the internet, I was able to get my hands on L’Assommoir, Germinal, La Bête Humaine, and Nana – but none of the others in the Rougon-Macquart Cycle. So, do I re-read L’Assommoir? Or skip ahead to L’Œuvre (which looks really interesting).

I decided to re-read the ones I had poured through already. At least with L’Assommoir I’m glad I did.

First of all it’s arguably (along with Germinal) the best book in the series. It’s a terribly sad story but an arresting one, full of fascinating full-blooded characters filling a complete world. We can’t live (thank God) in the world of the underbelly of Paris in the Second French Empire – but the book takes us there and we can feel the moments of passionate fun along with the grinding poverty and ultimate doom of a group of people we come to know well and care deeply about.

The story follows Gervaise Macquart, who we met briefly in the first novel in the series,La Fortune des Rougon, where she ran away from her country town of Plassans to Paris with her lover, Lantier. She works as a washerwoman and has two children with Lantier until he leaves her for another woman. Then she marries a non-drinking roofer, Coupeau and her life takes a turn for the better. She is able to put together the funds to open her own laundry, hire employees, and her daughter is born (Nana – who will have her own book later on, as will Gervaise’s other two children) – everything is going great. This is Zola, however, and he accounts for the madness in the Rougon-Macquart family and after Coupeau is severely injured in an accident they go on a long, heartbreaking, alcohol-fueled fall into abject poverty, disaster, and madness.

The second reason I was glad I re-read the book is that I was able to get a good great translation. As I’ve written before all Zola’s books are available for free in ebook form from Project Gutenberg. However, these translations done by  the Vizetelly family are not the best. Henry Vizetelly was imprisoned over the publication of his translation of La Terre, which was considered offensive. Subsequent editions of all of Zola’s novels were heavily edited by his son Ernest in order to avoid further prosecutions.

I have learned to bite the bullet and buy a modern translation if one is available. This is especially true of L’Assommoir. It is filled with street slang and risque scenes which are omitted from the Vizetelly versions. The Penguin edition I had was translated by Robin Buss and was very well done. I’m going to look for his translations of any French novels in the future.

The arc of the story of L’Assommoir is heartbreaking but I loved the structure of the novel. It is built around a series (pretty much one per chapter) of set pieces. In keeping with Zola’s style of literary naturalism these scenes are finely detailed, rollicking, and the reader feels in the heart of the action. The wedding  (with a tumultuous visit to the Louvre), Gervaise’s triumphant feast (the zenith of her life which also contains the seeds of her downfall), and the final battle with alcoholic madness of her husband Coupeau, are some of the most famous – but there are more.

So, if you want an introduction to the seedier side of Paris, an introduction to Zola and naturalist literature, with a great (although heartbreaking) story – you can’t do better than L’Assommoir.

 

 

Their Mission In This World

“The Man has a branch office in each of our brains, his corporate emblem is a white albatross, each local rep has a cover known as the Ego, and their mission in this world is Bad Shit.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

New Orleans, Louisiana

Dallas Snuggie Pub Crawl

A while back (Saturday February 4th to be exact) I was waiting to get on the McKinney Avenue Trolley down by the Dallas Museum of Art. Glancing over at the folks waiting in line to board, I noticed that some of them were wearing odd items of clothing – at a glance, at a distance, at first… they seemed to be some sort of colorful flowing robe. My first idea was that they had come from the Crow Museum of Asian Art (which was having some festivities that day) and were wearing some cheap imitation Asian costume of some kind.

Riding down McKinney Avenue in the Trolley, I started to notice other folks wearing these robes. Now, though I could see them a bit better and realized what they were. These people were wearing Snuggies.

A whole group of Women of a Certain Age clambered aboard wearing matching tiger-striped Snuggies, cateye sunglasses, and silver tiaras (sorry, I was so gobsmacked by the whole entourage I forgot to bring out my camera). I asked them what was up and they said it was the third annual Dallas Snuggie Pub Crawl.

All along the route I saw folks all snuggified – though a lot were cheating – they were simply wearing their bathrobes backward. I know this is alright… the rules say:

This is a Snuggie Pub Crawl even so a Snuggie of some kind is REQUIRED but you can also wear:

  • Slankets
  • Designer Snuggies
  • Snuggie knock-off brands
  • Adult Onesie or Forever Lazy
  • Robes

I’m sorry, but I think these rules are too lax… I don’t think robes or Forever Lazy should count. I go out in those all the time.

We chugged along through Uptown and began to pass the bars where the pub crawlers were congregating. It looked like a blast. It was tough to get decent photographs – the trolley was packed and moving fast and I had to shoot through bits of glass.

So, I assume there will be a fourth annual Dallas Snuggie Pub Crawl in or around February next year. I’ve made a note in my planner – it’s the only thing I have marked for 2013 so far.

I’ll have to buy a Snuggie, though. I am not going to go out there in a backwards robe.

The Snuggie People boarding the trolley

OK, this is Texas, so I guess the burnt orange Snuggies are all right, but what is that big green case he is lugging and why does she have such an armload of notes for a pub crawl?

When you and your insignificant other meet another couple in Uptown for drinks... is it more embarrassing to forget your Snuggies... or to remember them?

The bars were hoppin'. Are those Mandelbrot set Snuggies?

D Magazine Photographs from this year’s Snuggie Pub Crawl

Snuggie Pub Crawl in Uptown

Pegasus News, First Pub Crawl Photos

2010 Pub Crawl Photos

2011 Pub Crawl Photos

Skull & Crossbones Snuggie

Ode to My Snuggie

I Sing the Body Snuggified