Mystery Author! Episode 2

This is the second installment where I have typed up something delicious by a famous author for your reading pleasure. As a reminder, we play this game: You don’t know who wrote it until the end. Rule: Don’t cheat by scrolling all the way down first (unless you’re a douchebag who likes to ruin good & wholesome fun!)

“WHY had they pretended to kill him when he was born? Keeping him awake for days, banging his head against a closed cervix; twisting the cord around his throat and throttling him; chomping through his mother’s abdomen with cold shears; clamping his head and wrenching his neck from side to side; dragging him out of his home and hitting him; shining lights in his eyes and doing experiments; taking him away from his mother while she lay on the table, half-dead.

Maybe the idea was to destroy his nostalgia for the old world. First the confinement to make him hungry for space, then pretending to kill him so that he would be grateful for the space when he got it, even this loud desert, with only the bandages of his mother’s arms to wrap around him, never the whole thing again, the whole warm thing all around him, being everything.

The curtains were breathing light into their hospital room. Swelling from the hot afternoon, and then flopping back against the French windows, easing the glare outside.

Someone opened the door and the curtains leapt up and rippled their edges; loose paper rustled, the room whitened, and the shudder of the roadworks grew a little louder. Then the door clunked and the curtains sighed and the room dimmed.

‘Oh, no, not more flowers,’ said his mother. He could see everything through the transparent walls of his fish-tank cot. He was looked over by the sticky eye of a splayed lily. Sometimes the breeze blew the peppery smell of freesias over him and he wanted to sneeze it away. On his mother’s nightgown spots of blood mingled with streaks of dark orange pollen.

‘It’s so nice of people…’ She was laughing from weakness and frustration. ‘I mean, is there any room in the bath?’

‘Not really, you’ve got the roses in there already and the other things.’

‘Oh, God, I can’t bear it. Hundreds of flowers have been cut down and squeezed into these white vases, just to make us happy’. She couldn’t stop laughing. There were tears running down her face. ‘They should have been left where they were, in a garden somewhere.’

The nurse looked at the chart.

‘It’s time for you to take your Voltarol,’ she said. ‘You’ve got to control the pain before it takes over.’

Then the nurse looked at Robert and he locked on to her blue eyes in the heaving dimness.

‘He’s very alert. He’s really checking me out.’

‘He is going to be all right, isn’t he?’ said his mother, suddenly terrified.

Suddenly Robert was terrified too. They were not together in the way they used to be, but they still had their helplessness in common.

They had been washed up on a wild shore. Too tired to crawl up the beach, they could only loll in the roar and the dazzle of being there. He had to face facts, though: they had been separated. He understood now that his mother had already been on the outside. For her this wild shore was a new role, for him it was a new world.

The strange thing was that he felt as if he had been there before. He had known there was an outside all along. He used to think it was a muffled watery world out there and that he lived at the heart of things. Now the walls had tumbled down and he could see what a muddle he had been in. How could he avoid getting in a new muddle in this hammeringly bright place? How could he kick and spin like he used to in this heavy atmosphere where the air stung his skin?

Yesterday he had thought he was dying. Perhaps he was right and this was what happened. Everything was open to question, except the fact that he was separated from his mother.

Now that he realized there was a difference between them, he loved his mother with a new sharpness. He used to be close to her. Now he longed to be close to her. The first taste of longing was the saddest thing in the world.

‘Oh, dear, what’s wrong?’ said the nurse. ‘Are we hungry, or do we just want a cuddle?’

The nurse lifted him out of the fish-tank cot, over the crevasse that separated it from the bed and delivered him into his mother’s bruised arms.

‘Try giving him a little time on the breast and then try to get some rest. You’ve both been through a lot in the last couple of days.’

He was an inconsolable wreck. He couldn’t live with so much doubt and so much intensity. He vomited colostrum over his mother and then in the hazy moment of emptiness that followed, he caught sight of the curtains bulging with light. They held his attention. That’s how it worked here. They fascinated you with things to make you forget about the separation.

Still, he didn’t want to exaggerate his decline. Things had been getting cramped in the old world. Towards the end he was desperate to get out, but he had imagined himself expanding back into the boundless ocean of his youth, not exiled in this harsh land. Perhaps he could revisit the ocean in his dreams, if it weren’t for the veil of violence that hung between him and the past.

He was drifting into the syrupy borders of sleep, not knowing whether it would take him into the floating world or back to the butchery of the birth room.

‘Poor Baba, he was probably having a bad dream,’ said his mother, stroking him. His crying started to break up and fade. She kissed him on the forehead and he realized that although they didn’t share a body any more, they still had the same thoughts and feelings. He shuddered with relief and stared at the curtains, watching the light flow.”


This would be from The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St Aubyn. This passage is from Mother’s Milk, a later book within the novel. St Aubyn’s ability to imagine the perspective of a newborn infant, and to articulate that perspective using adult language and insight is nothing less than stunning.

I haven’t seen the HBO series yet, but I feel like this passage is a great example of why books rule over TV and film. How could you possibly capture something like this on film without losing the essence of it? It doesn’t seem possible.

My favorite line from the above is:

Perhaps he could revisit the ocean in his dreams, if it weren’t for the veil of violence that hung between him and the past.

I also wanted to include the entire book from Patrick’s drug addled youth, but I cannot handle typing that much.

Check out the first installment of this series, Episode 1, right here:

As a bonus, I’m including a passage from the same guy from episode 1 up there. But you have to check out episode 1 to find out who the hell it is.

I was going to do a separate blog entry. But I should probably put this where the people who like reading books are likely to hang out. Plus I don’t want to plug the same guy in a third post.

The passage below – damn – you all wish you could write this well. And so do I.

“At nine o’clock in the morning of every working day, Mr. Jack was hurled downtown to his office in a shining projectile of machinery, driven by a chauffeur who was a literal embodiment of New York in one of its most familiar aspects.

As the driver prowled above his wheel, his dark and sallow face twisted bitterly by the sneer of his thin mouth, his dark eyes shining with an unnatural luster like those of a man who is under the stimulation of a power drug, he seemed to be – and was – a creature which this furious city had created for its special uses. His tallowy flesh seemed to have been compacted, like that of millions of other men who wore grey hats and had faces of the same lifeless hue, out of a common city-substance – the universal grey stuff of pavements, buildings, towers, tunnels, and bridges.

In his veins there seemed to flow and throb, instead of blood, the crackling electric current by which the whole city moved. It was legible in every act and gesture the man made. As his sinister figure prowled above the wheel, his eyes darting left and right, his hands guiding the powerful machine with skill and precision, grazing, cutting, flanking, shifting, insinuating, sneaking, and shooting the great car through all but impossible channels with murderous recklessness, it was evident that the unwholesome chemistry that raced in him was consonant with the great energy that was pulsing through all the arteries of the city.

The unnatural and unwholesome energy of his driver evoked in his master’s mind an image of the world he lived in that was theatrical and phantasmal.

Instead of seeing himself as one man going to his work like countless others in the practical and homely light of day, he saw himself and his driver as two cunning and powerful men pitted triumphantly against the world; and the monstrous architecture of the city, the phantasmagoric chaos of its traffic, the web of the streets swarming with people, became for him nothing more than a tremendous backdrop for his own activities.

All of this – the sense of menace, conflict, cunning, power, stealth, and victory, and above all else, the sense of privilege – added to Mr. Jack’s pleasure, and even gave him a heady joy as he rode downtown to work.”

HOT DAMN! I love that whole thing about the chauffer and his everything being made of the grey city stuffs of buildings. This is my favorite passage ever. If someone wants to find where this is at, go look at episode 1 and then go order all the books by this author and just read it all.

Now I have to stop typing on a screen that emits blue light and read the kindle paperwhite that doesn’t emit blue light so that I have some chance of falling asleep by midnight.

As you can see, I have delightful shit to read for several hours.

Thanks for reading.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: