Monday, September 05, 2011

The Ghost Writer


"Throughout breakfast, my father, my mother, the judge and Mrs. Wapter were never out of my thoughts. I'd gone the whole night without sleep, and now I couldn't think straight about them or myself, or about Amy, as she was called. I kept seeing myself coming back to New Jersey and saying to my family, 'I met a marvelous young woman while I was up in New England. I love her and she loves me. We are going to be married.' 'Married? But so fast? Nathan, is she Jewish?' 'Yes, she is.' 'But who is she?' 'Anne Frank.' "


" 'Amy, you want to split an egg with me?'

"His invitation for her to speak gave me my first opportunity to turn her way without embarrassment. It was so. It could be. The same look of unarmored and unimpaired intelligence, the same musing look of serene anticipation... The forehead wasn't Shakespeare's—it was hers.

"She was smiling, as though she too were in the best of spirits and his refusal to kiss her breasts the night before had never happened. 'Couldn't do it,' she said to him.

" 'Not even half?' asked Lonoff.

" 'Not even a sixteenth.'

"This is my Aunt Tessie, this is Frieda and Dave, this is Birdie, this is Murray... as you see, we are an enormous family. This is my wife, everyone. She is all I have ever wanted. If you doubt me, just look at her smile, listen to her laugh. Remember the shadowed eyes innocently uplifted in the clever little face? Remember the dark hair clipped back with a barrette? Well, this is she.... Anne, says my father—the Anne? Oh, how I have misunderstood my son. How mistaken we have been!

" 'Scramble an egg, Hope,' said Lonoff. 'I'll eat half if you'll eat half.'

" 'You can eat the whole thing,' she replied. 'Just start taking your walks again.'

"He looked at me, imploringly. 'Nathan, eat half.'

" 'No, no,' said his wife and, turning to the stove, announced triumphantly, 'You'll eat the whole egg!' "


" 'Fondling those papers of yours! Oh, she'll see! I got fondled more by strangers on the rush-hour subway during two months in 1935 than I have up here in the last twenty years! Take off your coat, Amy—you're staying. The classroom daydream has come true! You get the creative writer—and I get to go!'

" 'She's not staying,' Lonoff said, softly again. 'You're staying.'

" 'Not for thirty-five more years of this!'

" 'Oh, Hopie.' He put a hand out to her face, where the tears were still falling.

" 'I'm going to Boston! I'm going to Europe! It's too late to touch me now! I'm taking a trip around the world and never coming back! And you,' she said, looking down at Amy in her chair, 'you won't go anywhere. You won't see anything. If you even go out to dinner, if once in six months you get him to accept an invitation to somebody's home, then it'll be even worse—then for the hour before you go your life will be misery from his kvetching about what it's going to be like when those people start in with their ideas. If you dare to change the pepper mill, he'll ask what's the matter, what was wrong with the old one? It takes three months for him just to get used to a new brand of soap. Change the soap and he goes around the house sniffing, as though something dead is on the bathroom sink instead of just a bar of Palmolive. Nothing can be touched, nothing can be changed, everybody must be quiet, the children must shut up, their friends must stay away until four— There is his religion of art, my young successor: rejecting life! Not living is what he makes his beautiful fiction out of! And you will now be the person he is not living with!' "


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