My Face for the World to See (New York Review Books Classics)
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Alfred Hayes is one of the secret masters of the twentieth century novel, a journalist and scriptwriter and poet who possessed an immaculate ear and who wrote with razorsharp intelligence about passion and its payback.
My Face for the World to See is set in Hollywood, where the tonic for anonymity is fame and you’re only as real as your image. At a party, the narrator, a screenwriter, rescues a young woman who staggers with drunken determination into the Pacific. He is living far from his wife in New York and long ago shed any illusions about the value of his work. He just wants to be left alone. And yet without really meaning to, he gets involved with the young woman, who has, it seems, no illusions about love, especially with married men. She’s a survivor, even if her beauty is a little battered from years of not quite making it in the pictures. She’s just like him, he thinks, and as their casual relationship takes on an increasingly troubled and destructive intensity, it seems that might just be true, only not in the way he supposes.
of some weight being at last lifted. As though a series of doors, one after another, slowly opened. It was I, now, who reached across whatever divided us, and began in the darkness, my hand a conclusion to something, to unbutton her white silk blouse. 25 BUT THE doors were not to stay open. One evening, when I drove up to my apartment, there was mail in the mailbox: a bill from the gas company, something friendly from an investment broker, and a letter from my wife. Her father had died.
blood. She seemed taller. I don’t know why at that moment she seemed taller, and even somewhat triumphant; triumphant, and taller, in a way I couldn’t explain; as though, finally, she’d outwitted, or spited someone (it could not have been me); she stood there, with an exhausted, but a cunning and a triumphant look on her face, for whomever she’d at last outwitted, and then everything, the bones that held her up, sort of melted, and she fell into the blood that was now all over her dress and all
maybe not the precise bathroom it would happen in: but they must have known. “Known what?” Charlie said. Because there was the prize, glittering out there at the end of the branch. It hung there, ripe and visible, not looking at all dangerous, not looking at all like a fruit that might contain so fatal a pit; and hanging there where it could be seen, where she could always see it, why was it to be expected that she would consider it forbidden? That she would accept the fact that only the duller
picturesque living, the bridal business in the bedroom and the lithographed bulls with those poniards sticking out of them off the living room, and the nearly complete collection of cold creams and deodorants in the medicine cabinet. It had, though, the disadvantage of striking me, when I was in a bad mood, as murderously cute, and of, now and then, urging me to reconstruct those inevitable scenes which must have transpired when my landlady had tried desperately to get over her marital sorrows.
car went by in the street; occasionally, there was the sound of a bird in a tree. I did not feel, in the darkness, lost or in despair or even unhappy. My throat burned a little, but that was because I smoked too much: it seemed somewhat ironic to have only that as a concern lying there in the darkness. I’d been coming here now, to this place, off and on for about five years. I’d work for a few months at one of the studios and then I’d go back to New York. It was not a disadvantageous arrangement.