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Free Preview: Exiles in the Garden by Ward Just

Free Preview: Exiles in the Garden by Ward Just

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"One of the most astute writers of American fiction" (New York Times Book Review) delivers the resonant story of Alec Malone, a senator’s son who rejects the family business of politics for a career as a newspaper photographer. Alec and his Swiss wife, Lucia, settle in Georgetown next door to a couple whose émigré gatherings in their garden remind Lucia of all the things Americans are not. She leaves Alec as his career founders on his refusal of an assignment to cover the Vietnam War — a slyly subversive fictional choice from Ward Just, who was himself a renowned war correspondent.

At the center of the novel is Alec’s unforeseen reckoning with Lucia’s long-absent father, Andre Duran, a Czech living out the end of his life in a hostel called Goya House. Duran’s career as an adventurer and antifascist commando is everything Alec’s is not. The encounter forces Alec to confront just how different a life where things — "terrible things, terrible things" — happen is from a life where nothing much happens at all.

Once again, "Ward Just writes the kind of books they say no one writes anymore: smart, well-crafted narratives — wise to the ways of the world — that use fiction to show us how we live" (Joseph Kanon, Los Angeles Times).
"One of the most astute writers of American fiction" (New York Times Book Review) delivers the resonant story of Alec Malone, a senator’s son who rejects the family business of politics for a career as a newspaper photographer. Alec and his Swiss wife, Lucia, settle in Georgetown next door to a couple whose émigré gatherings in their garden remind Lucia of all the things Americans are not. She leaves Alec as his career founders on his refusal of an assignment to cover the Vietnam War — a slyly subversive fictional choice from Ward Just, who was himself a renowned war correspondent.

At the center of the novel is Alec’s unforeseen reckoning with Lucia’s long-absent father, Andre Duran, a Czech living out the end of his life in a hostel called Goya House. Duran’s career as an adventurer and antifascist commando is everything Alec’s is not. The encounter forces Alec to confront just how different a life where things — "terrible things, terrible things" — happen is from a life where nothing much happens at all.

Once again, "Ward Just writes the kind of books they say no one writes anymore: smart, well-crafted narratives — wise to the ways of the world — that use fiction to show us how we live" (Joseph Kanon, Los Angeles Times).

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Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on Aug 04, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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12/03/2014

 
 
3
THE PHOTOGRAPHER
E
specially
when he was alone Alec Malone had the habito slipping into reverie, a semiconscious state not to be con-used with dreams. Dreams were commonplace while hisreveries presented a kind o abstract grandeur, expressionist can- vases in close ocus, untitled. That was how he thought o them,and not only because o the score in the background, Germanmusic, voices, trumpets, metronomic bass drums, and now andagain the suggestion o a tango or a march. The reveries had been with him since childhood and he treated them like old riendspaying a visit. The riends aged as he did, becoming increasingly abstract now that he had begun to lose sight in his right eye, ahole in the macula that began as a pinprick but was now the sizeo an
o.
That eye saw only the periphery o things with any clar-ity. The condition was annoying, not disabling, since sight was aunction not o one eye but o two and Alec’s let eye was sound.However, driving at night was an adventure. He did not permithimsel to drive in og because objects had a way o vanishing
 
4 altogether. And there was some amusement when he closed hislet eye and looked at a human ace with his right, that ace ap-peared as an expressionist’s death’s-head, an image very like Munch’s
The Scream.
Alec had the usual habits o one who lived alone: a xed diet,a weekly visit to the bookstore, a scrupulously balanced check-book, and a devotion to major league baseball and the PGA Tour.He worked when he elt like it. He described himsel to himsel as leading a chamber-music sort o lie except or the Wagnerianreveries. They were neutral antasies, meaning they had noth-ing to do with the lie he wished he had led Alec was quitecontent with the one he had — or might lead in the uture. He didnot count himsel a prophet. He returned oten to his childhoodbut rarely lingered there. His childhood was so long ago that theevents he remembered most vividly seemed to him to have hap-pened to someone else and were incomplete in any case, washed-out colors side by side with ink-black holes, a hal-rememberedcountry governed by a grim-aced man with a long nose, a gurerom antiquity, perhaps a
bildnis 
rom Dürer’s sketchbook. Alecconsidered the long-nosed man a amily heirloom, grandmother’ssilver or the pendulum clock on the mantel, the one whose ticksand tocks sounded like pistol reports. He lost his ooting in thoseearly years in which the domestic lie o his own amily wasusurped by the civic lie o the nation. That was the lie thatcounted. The Malone dinner table, his ather presiding, was acombination quiz show and news conerence.Quick now, Alec. How many congressional districts in Iowa? Which nations were signatories to the Locarno Pact? Who wrote“Fear o serious injury cannot alone justiy suppression o reespeech and assembly. Men eared witches and burned women. Itis the unction o speech to ree men rom the bondage o irratio-nal ears”?What was Glass-Steagall? Who was Colonel House?
 
 
5Where is Yalta?Question: What’s the dierence between ignorance and in-dierence?Answer: I don’t know and I don’t care.Hush, Alec. Don’t disturb your ather when he’s talking to Mr. Roosevelt. Don’t you know there’s a war on?À la recherche du temps Roosevelt. The president inhabitedthe house in Chevy Chase like a member o the amily or a livinggod, present everywhere and visible nowhere. Alec’s ather calledhim the Boss. The Boss wants this, the Boss wants that. The Bosssounded a little tired today but he’s leaving or Warm Springs to-morrow. In his reveries Alec conjured the president in his WhiteHouse o ce, talking into the telephone in his marbled HudsonRiver voice, commanding an entire nation its armies, its acto-ries and arms, all its citizens great and small. Yet Alec had nosense o him as a man not then, not later and when he tenta-tively asked his ather, the reply was bromidic. He was great. He was the greatest man his ather had ever met, and he had metmany, many o the highest men in the land, shaken their hands,spoken tête-à-tête, worked with them, worked against them. TheBoss was dierent. The Boss lived on a dierent level, derivinghis strength and his courage rom and here his ather altered,uncomortable always in the realm o the mystical. Finally hesaid, His legs are useless, you know. He can hardly walk. Buthe likes a martini at the end o the day just like the rest o us,and there the comparison ends. Alec, I’d say he’s Shakespearean. That’s the best I can do.Alec nodded, wondering all the while which o Shakespeare’skings his ather had in mind Macbeth, Richard III, Coriolanus?Henry V, no doubt, though that comparison did not seem apt.Shakespeare’s kings suered the consequences o their will topower. The will to power was the evil in them, not that they didnot have ample assistance rom others — wives, alse riends, ri-

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