Varia Michael Hogan Man Out of Time

ISBN 13: 9780385336932

Man Out of Time

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9780385336932: Man Out of Time

For the nameless hero of Michael Hogan’s riveting, savagely comical novel, everything feels a little off-kilter. On his first day of work at a prestigious Manhattan firm, the bright, young would-be lawyer can’t help feeling that he’s living in the wrong time, at the wrong speed, in the wrong place. With the best of intentions, he’s put on his finest clothes, fought his way through a hangover, and entered a bewildering world of billable hours, office flirtations, and pedigreed posturing.

Even on day one he can’t quite show up on time. And the woman who catches his eye couldn’t be more inappropriate. Now for the wide-eyed young lawyer matched with a button-down firm a contest has begun. Because in one horrible moment, for all the right reasons, our hero makes a wrong move—an ill-timed chuckle that makes a fast enemy of one powerful partner-in-training. And the retribution that follows is quite possibly the most devastating, darkly comic portrayal of the punishment exceeding the crime in modern fiction...

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From the Back Cover:

"Relentless... A tale of wayward youth in the vein of Bright Lights, Big City.... Hogan has a gift for capturing the vulnerability of youth and the terrifying swiftness with which things can go utterly wrong."
--Publishers Weekly
From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Mary's supposed to meet Eddy and me at the bar by seven o'clock, so when I see her come through the door I know it's her even though she's changed her hair again. She's with her friend Jeanne from the West Side who wears ankle-length dresses and thinks she's some kind of Earth Mother type. Jeanne's always talking about women and their rights and the Wicca cult she belongs to somewhere north of Westchester, and I figure Jeanne must have heavy legs because I've seen a lot of women go "Earth Mother" because of their legs. Mary's told me that Jeanne is a rare and special person, a "diamond in the rough," a font of wisdom and arcane information, untainted by anything as pedestrian as attending school or gaining professional certification. Mary doesn't come right out and say it, but she's taken up Jeanne because a small part of Mary reserves room for the exotic, and a large part of Mary patrols the outer borders of herself through the lives of those who appear to live there.

"We did it," Mary says, making her way through the happy-hour crowd, snapping her fingers over her head with a move that is vaguely Continental and somewhat out of place. I'm not sure what she means when she says, "We did it," though after she starts in on Eddy about the tax question on Tuesday (which I didn't even know was a tax question), it's clear she's talking about law school and graduation and how we, meaning Mary, Eddy, and I, had somehow gotten through the bar exam.

"You can't deduct those items on a state return," Eddy says, his voice loud with intent but thin with uncertainty, the two of them facing off on something ridiculous about credits and estates, while Jeanne just stands there trying to look enigmatic and poised and peaceful all at the same time. "And that's got nothing to do with the 'Rule Against Perpetuities,' " Mary says, and I wonder what it is about law students that compels them to test one another in their relentless quest for the simple certitude of being right.

Behind Jeanne, a few stools down the bar, there's a kid with a Mao hat with a red star above the bill. He's been on a jag for hours, saying he's one of the chosen few because he goes to Harvard, preaching to no one in particular about the proletariat and the working man and Labor's failure to give Management what it really deserves. He looks around for somebody to bother and I give him a don't-even-try-it look, but before I can ask Jeanne about the summer solstice and what really happens on the shortest night of the year, the Mao-kid's got his face over her shoulder and he's complaining about lawyers and how they're completely fucked, with their money and the way they screw society. I figure I might have to do something about this, nothing chivalrous, just the normal mind-your-own-business stuff, but Jeanne just stands there and listens to him as if she's not put off by it, all the time smiling her hippie-bliss smile as if the Mao-kid were some kind of noble and savage entertainment.

Later, after Eddy has the good sense to get us to the back room where we can sit in overstuffed leather booths and order from walk-about waitresses, Jeanne says people like the Mao-kid are just "young souls" who haven't been reincarnated more than a few times and that "old souls," meaning herself, of course, have a responsibility to lead them gently through experience. It's all such a crock that I look at Eddy with my eyes doing the 180-roll-around-the-ceiling thing, but Eddy likes this stuff about old souls and young souls, and he and Mary ask Jeanne what they are, and I wonder what's the big deal about having been around the block a couple of thousand times.

Mary orders another drink and doesn't hesitate or debate the big "yes" or "no," or whether she's going to have some sugar-laden, syrupy, doesn't-taste-like-liquor drink. Mary just orders gin straight up and straight out, because Mary always knows what she wants, whether it's a drink or something big, as in the "big picture," which for Mary is a very big picture, and which, at present, has little to do with men, since she's slotted a man for herself somewhere down the road, having carefully plotted exactly how she intends to proceed successfully along the treacherous path of life among adults.

Mary's going to work downtown in a big firm. That's what she's wanted to do forever because that's what her father does, and there's something in those muscular, hard-featured WASP girls that makes them want to be like their fathers. Mary says she'll gladly endure the forced camaraderie of late nights with bleary-eyed associates, driven by caffeine and ambition, for the prestige of being a young lion on the street-not to mention the perks of young boys who'll pick up and deliver her photocopies and bring around fresh coffee and sweets in the late afternoon. "Those are just some of the accoutrements," Mary says, and Mary wants all kinds of accoutrements, and being brilliant and having been raised the way she was raised, she'll probably get all of it and not give a damn about what the less than brilliant students used to say about her. They were the ones who called her hard and shallow because she made no excuses for her ambition, but just went her own way, distinguishing herself from the others, who, despite themselves, didn't know what they wanted, but out of fear, or insecurity, or some blind passion for growing up on time, acted cocksure and arrogant so as not to acknowledge their own insecurities concerning the prospects for their own driven futures. There were a lot of students like that in school. I'd say there was a floating constant of idiots, myself included, who were intermittently struck dumb by the chronic arrogance of apparent control-the constant itself comprising different people from time to time, particularly at semester's end when the number grades had the deleterious effect of knocking the underpinnings out from under many, who then, humbled and chastened, rationalized away the importance of professional success in favor of the "more important" things in life-things like an appreciation for art or nature or loved ones-pretending to be deep, even eccentric, because they'd been marginalized, driven to the outer rim of credibility, to the arena of quiet reflection, having slipped so badly along the fault line of uncertainty where existentialism and bad grades meet.

We order more drinks and listen to the Bobby Short look-alike try to sound like Nat King Cole, while Jeanne tells us about the power of the gems she carries in a small velvet pouch. Mary listens with the same unaffected interest she shows everybody, and I imagine Mary at work on her first day and how she'll know what to say when she greets lawyers and bosses in corridors filled with semi-important people.

Mary and I both made the Law Review. Everyone expected her to make it, and nobody expected me to make it. In fact, the gang I ran with the first year acted like I'd somehow betrayed them when I made it and they didn't. At first I was embarrassed by it, but then one day in the beginning of second year Professor Kohler, this nondescript little guy with huge glasses, called on me to brief some case I'd never seen before, and I fumbled over words that made no sense until I admitted that I was unprepared. Then Bob Bradley, who sat behind me, and who'd been a Green Beret, leaned over his desk and said something about "the kid on Law Review" not knowing his cases, clicking his tongue with that "tut-tut-tut" thing kids do when they're being real assholes. I just turned around and told him to fuck off. I said, "Fuck off, Bob Bradley," and Kohler heard me and looked at me, and I didn't even feel bad about it because I'd had enough of Bob Bradley's envy. It was about that time that Mary and I became friends. She said: "Don't let the bastards get you down," which is one of those WASP things WASPS say when they're calling on that stiff-upper-lip stuff.

Jeanne continues to tell us what her gems can do. She says that thousands of people are using them to change the world for the better. Eddy fingers a stone, and when the waitress comes by I ask her if she's heard about how people are going to change the world by using stones. The waitress looks at me like I'm crazy. She thinks I'm just another jerk customer who's drinking and saying stupid things. I want to tell her I wasn't kidding, that the girl with the round face and the Oriental dress is the one who's really crazy. But it's over so quickly with the waitress putting the glasses down and fingering the money that I can't explain myself, and I watch her walk away with her muscular legs and small body and Dutch-boy haircut. Then Eddy asks, "How do these gems do all this good stuff?" and Jeanne starts in on magnetic poles and higher consciousness and the secrets of the pyramids, and Mary just looks at me and whispers, "Isn't she a kick?"

Outside, in a foyer with a spiral staircase, kids no older than ourselves, dressed in tuxedos and gowns, climb the staircase to a ballroom from where I can hear the first sounds of music in the bass that rumbles over the ceiling and down the walls.

"Where are they going?" I ask, and Eddy tells me about the private club the owners run upstairs for people with money and old names.

"Money," I say.

"New money," he says. "Only the names have to be old," and he places the gem he's holding in the small velvet pouch that's open on the table.

Eddy's a strange guy, but he's a good-looking guy, too. People say he looks like Fred Astaire, all pressed and clean, distinguished, a little older than his years, everything about him having been compacted, smoothed, and polished, if not by the passage of time, then by that kind of experience usually reserved for the wealthy which makes them shine and cut figures as they age toward some imperishable beauty of self-justification. But there's a lot more to Eddy than the mechani...

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