About this title:
William Dublin is middle-aged, a distinguished biographer seeking increased accomplishment and the key to his inner feelings. His marriage is stable if unexciting, and he lives comfortably with his wife in Vermont. Then his imagination is caught by Fanny, a young girl of twenty-three, and he is thrown into an intense, erotic love affair that threatens to destroy his measured, disciplined world and the lives of those around him.
About the Author:
Bernard Malamud, one of America's most important novelists and short-story writers, was born in Brooklyn in 1914. He took his B.A. degree at the City College of New York and his M.A. at Colombia University. From 1940 to 1949 he taught in various New York schools, and then joined the staff of Oregon State University, where he stayed until 1961. Thereafter, he taught at Bennington State College, Vermont. His remarkable, and uncharacteristic first novel, The Natural, appeared in 1952. Malamud received international acclaim with the publication of The Assistant (1957, winner of the Rosenthal Award and the Daroff Memorial Award). His other works include The Magic Barrel (1958, winner of the National Book Award), Idiots First (1963, short stories), The Fixer (1966, winner of a second National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize), Pictures of Fidelman (1969), The Tenants (1971), Rembrandt's Hat (1973, short stories), Dubin's Lives (1979) and God's Grace (1982). Bernard Malamud was made a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, USA, in 1964, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1967, and won a major Italian award, the Premio Mondello, in 1985. Benard Malamud died in 1986.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
One They sometimes met on country roads when there were flowers or snow. Greenfeld wandered on various roads. In winter, bundled up against the weather, Dubin, a five-foot-eleven grizzled man with thin legs, walked on ice and snow, holding a peeled birch limb. Greenfeld remembered him tramping along exhaling white breaths. Sometimes when one was going longitude and the other latitude they waved to each other across windswept snowy fields. He recalled Dubin's half-hidden face on freezing days when it was too cold to talk. Or they joked in passing. Had he heard the one about the rabbi, who when his sexton prayed aloud, "Dear God, I am nothing, You are everything," remarked, "Look who says he's nothing!" Dubin hoarsely laughed. Once, looking not at all well, he said, "This has to be the center of the universe, my friend." "Where?" "This road as we meet." He stamped his boot as he spoke. Once in passing he said, "Ach, it's a balancing act," then called back, "a lonely business." A minute later: "In essence I mean to say." There were times Dubin handed him a note he read later and perhaps filed. Once the flutist read the slip of paper on the road and tore it up. "What are you doing?" the other shouted. "This I've seen before." Afterward he asked, "Why don't you keep yourself a journal?" "Not for me," the biographer replied. "None of this living for the gods."
They embraced after not meeting for months. Nor was Dubin afraid to kiss a man he felt affection for. Sometimes they wrote when either was abroad--a card might bring a letter, but otherwise now saw little of each other. Their wives weren't friends though they spoke at length when they met. There had been a time when both men drank together on winter nights, and though the talk satisfied, neither was able to work steadily or well the next morning. Eventually they stopped visiting one another and were the lonelier for it. Dubin, as time went by, found it hard to bear the other's growing quietude, and Greenfeld did not that much care for confession. Dubin could stand still, look you in the eye, and say some intimate things. Greenfeld liked not to know all.
Although it isn't yet end of summer, William Dubin in a moment of his walk into the country--rural into pastoral--beats his arms across chest and shoulders as though he had unexpectedly encountered cold, clouds have darkened, a snowstorm threatens. He had, in a way, been thinking of winter. The biographer had left the house in late-afternoon warm sunshine and had casually walked himself, despite nature's beauty, into a small gloom. He imagined it had come from sensing change in the season, one day to the next. August was a masked month: it looked like summer and conspired with fall; like February it would attempt to hide what it was about. Dubin had uncovered bright-green shoots under dead leaves in February. In the woods today he had spied a flare of red in a broad maple. A sense of short season: Northeast cheat. The days had secretly cast off ballast and were drifting toward autumn. Cold air descended to the roots of trees. The leaves, if you touched, were drying. The noise of bees sucking pale flowers, of crickets rasping, seemed distant. Butterflies, flitting amid trees, flaunted their glad rags a moment before generating and expiring. Dubin felt change and could not bear it. He forbade his mind to run to tomorrow. Let winter stay in its white hole. Beating his chest he flails at time. Time dances on. "Now I am ice, now I am sorrel." He shakes his useless fist.
Dubin, the biographer, a genial angular middle-aged type with a bulge of disciplined belly--thus far and no farther--and a grizzled head of hair, his head perhaps a half-size small for his height, walked briskly toward a dark-green covered bridge about a mile up the dirt road. His arms and legs werelong; deep chest; shoulders, when he straightened himself, upright. He had gray-blue eyes, a slender long nose, relaxed mouth; he smiled now, touched by a pleasant thought. The mild existential gloom he had experienced in the woods had evaporated; he felt serene, doing his walk. Dubin had a way of breaking into a run when something intensive rose to think of. He was running --marvelous gait for a man of fifty-six. For a minute he shadow-boxed on the road, desisting when a woman in a passing car laughed aloud. He trotted on, enjoying the sweep of space in every direction. He loved the free pleasures of perspective. Fifty yards from the road, a narrow stream, turbulent and muddy after a heavy morning shower, wound through the pasture. To the east rose masses of green trees climbing New York hills; beyond were the looming low Vermont mountains in misty receding planes. Dubin remembered once, in approaching Capri in search of D. H. Lawrence, the hills like a big-breasted woman on her back, raising her head to kiss the sky. Remembering his work, he unconsciously slowed to a brisk walk. He'd had thoughts while shaving that he ought to try developing a few notes for an autobiographical memoir--type a page or two to see if they came to life with texture, heft. Or do it the way Montaigne did--you start an essay and thus begin an examination of your life. "Reader, I am myself the subject of my book; you would be unreasonable to spend your leisure on so frivolous and vain a matter." His smile turned into snicker when he foresaw Kitty's judgment: "Why bother when there are so many unusual lives to write about?" She'd be right although any man speaking truthfully about his life should be worth reading. Still, no sense thinking about it until he had completed the Lawrence he was, after years of research, about to start writing. "My God, whatever brought me to him?" After several steps he ran on, a little in fright. He was running lightly, forearms loosely lifted, watching a wheeling flight of birds--grackles?--when an orange VW with a battered door and a soiled cracked windshield--it looked as though it had passed through the bird flight --roared out of the covered bridge, came to a halt, abruptly started forward, at last pulled jerkily to a stop at Dubin's side. He felt a flash of recognition on beholding the driver but it came to nothing: she was a stranger. The young woman begged his pardon in a voice he would surely have remembered, vaguely drawing down her skirt over bare thighs. She was braless, her face attractive; he had noticed a few darkish blond hairs on her chin. Her loose fair hair she wore long; the well-formed sturdy body was feminine, appealing. A half-eaten yellow pear lay on the seat beside her butif she had enjoyed the fruit it no longer showed. The girl's curious eyes, he thought, were uneasy, as if she was staring at last night's dream instead of only good-willed Dubin. She wore wire-framed blue-tinted glasses that muddied her green irises, he saw when she removed them. Her smile was nervous, mouth sour in repose. From habit he tried to imagine her past but made no headway. Her first glance at him had seemed tight, as though she was calculating whether his visible interest went beyond what the moment required; or she wanted not to be quickly read by anyone who could possibly read; then her focus shifted, gaze eased; she asked if she was on the right road to town. She had, out of the window, touched his arm. Dubin, pleased by the gesture, pointed a helpful finger in the direction he had come. "Take the left of the fork." The girl nodded. This was no comfortable lady despite nature's favor of an impressive body and on-the-verge-of-beautiful face. Whatever she had she seemed to want less of. He was about to walk on but she was still unsure where to go. Dubin gave her a good word: "A lovely day." He was a deep-voiced man with a tentative laugh. "Some would say so." "Not you?" She did not reply. "Be kind to yourself." He had stammered as a child, and the impulse to on occasion converted itself into a mild hoarseness of expression, sometimes a self-conscious laugh. Dubin cleared his throat. She gave him an almost sullen look. "Why do you say that?" A man behind them, in an Oldsmobile with Jersey plates, honked to pass. "Whyn't you make love in bed?" The girl burst into a nervous laugh. Dubin told her he had no idea and hurried on. It later occurred to him that the disquiet lady had been wearing a Star of David on a thin gold chain around her neck. If they had spoken names might they have touched lips? Ah, Dubin, you meet a pretty girl on the road and are braced to hop on a horse in pursuit of youth.
There he stood by the tree that had wounded him. The blow on the head and broken bones were not the wound; they hadevoked the wound, he had thought a minute after his car had struck the tree --the aftermath when one cursed himself for suffering the wound. Dubin had tramped through the booming bridge, where the muddy stream turned west and he east, and was again at the point of the road he still shunned, twenty feet from the highway: it had iced up during a freezing late-fall rain last year and Dubin, on a trivial morning errand--a container of milk Kitty had forgotten to buy--slid into an accident. His thoughts had hardly changed. The car spun like an arrow on a board and the biographer--as if trying to foretell the future: what begins with a wound?--had struck a tree, the last lining the road--another foot and he'd have skidded to a stop in the dead grass. He had not at first felt pain as blood streamed down his face. He had stumbled to the highway waving his left arm, the other cracked at the wrist, bloody nose broken, right knee cut. It had seemed to him hours before anyone stopped to pick him up. Three drivers had seen him and sped by--"Fools!" Dubin had cried in astonishment. She who had stopped for him was a girl in her late twenties in a red Pinto, on her way to work. He had felt ashamed to be bleeding in her car. I...
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