A Meaningful Life (New York Review Books Classics)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
L.J. Davis’s 1971 novel, A Meaningful Life, is a blistering black comedy about the American quest for redemption through real estate and a gritty picture of New York City in collapse. Just out of college, Lowell Lake, the Western-born hero of Davis’s novel, heads to New York, where he plans to make it big as a writer. Instead he finds a job as a technical editor, at which he toils away while passion leaks out of his marriage to a nice Jewish girl. Then Lowell discovers a beautiful crumbling mansion in a crime-ridden section of Brooklyn, and against all advice, not to mention his wife’s will, sinks his every penny into buying it. He quits his job, moves in, and spends day and night on demolition and construction. At last he has a mission: he will dig up the lost history of his house; he will restore it to its past grandeur. He will make good on everything that’s gone wrong with his life, and he will even murder to do it.
looked back on those days with nostalgia and regret, but he would have cut out his tongue before admitting that his life had been shaped by a minor character in a child’s radio serial, the comic-book counterpart not having affected him in the least, but there was no getting around it. Most of the time he managed not to think about it, but every once in a while awareness would suddenly strike him and he would feel like a supreme ass. “Pay attention, Lake!” he barked. “I said, what’s the matter
myself?” Lowell looked at her with some confusion. At the same time, he became aware that the men on the corner had begun to stare at them with bright, drunken grins. Lowell was always at a loss when Negroes stared at him. They infallibly seemed to know what was going on in his mind, and he was a complete pushover when they asked him for money. "Can't we go someplace and talk about it?” he asked. “You said we were going home,” said his wife. "You said. I don't know why you won't do what you
wearing: it was faded and had flowers printed on it. She smiled at them hopefully, looking from one to the other as though in search of the one who was nicest. "Yes?” she asked. “It's all right,” said the agent. "The landlord wants these people to look at your apartment. You understand? The landlord.” “Who?” she asked, still smiling but not as hopefully. Her hair was tied back with a piece of string, and Lowell noticed that she was wearing an old pair of men's carpet slippers. “I hope we're
while three small children, none of them wearing anything below the waist, played on the bed with old baby bottles and a couple of empty beer cans. Next door was another sewing room. It was darker than Henry's place, smelled powerfully of cigars, and was occupied by a crone who remained in the shadows, her presence barely visible but powerfully felt, like the emanations of a witch who had almost, but not quite, succeeded in turning herself invisible. Upstairs in the largest room a family of
Collingwood,” he said to himself as he sat in his office that afternoon. "Darius Collingwood.” It was a good name. It was the kind of name he wished he had. His wife noticed the direction he was taking and did her best to stem the tide. "Let's do it differently tonight,” she said. "I'll be the man and you be the woman, how about it? If that doesn't suit you, we could do something else. We could do anything you want. Anything. What do you say?” But Lowell was too drunk to talk and it was quite a