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On Uncle Vanya: Part Three

July 5, 2012 | by

But the reason I was telling this story was because I was reminded of that night in St. Petersburg when I saw Annie Baker’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya. Like Vanya and Astrov, I am middle-aged, a drunk, often despondent—perhaps I am having a midlife crisis—and yes, I am an adulterer. (Vanya and Astrov are only would-be adulterers.) At the time I was trying to pick up this Russian waitress—sitting drunk in the snow-covered park, watching a bear dance at the end of a short rope—I was already an adulterer. Two years before, I had left my first wife for my assistant, who worked in my jewelry store. I drank my way into that affair, and I would drink my way through the divorce.

But the sad fact was I did not get to sleep with the Russian waitress. This is what actually happened.

The man with the bear would not leave me alone. Read More »

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On Uncle Vanya: Part Two

July 3, 2012 | by

But how I got to thinking about my drunken love affair, years ago in Saint Petersburg, is Sam Gold’s new production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, playing now at the Soho Rep.

It’s ninety-nine-cent Sunday, and the line of sweaty New Yorkers edging for shade outside the eighty-seat theater is long. They are bored and tired. It’s a muggy ninety degrees. “We’re never going to get in,” I hear one complain to another; later, outside the bathroom, where they sell vodka shots for three dollars a piece, I hear an excited woman say to her date: “I can’t believe we made it!” Most of the people who stood or sat in line (many since two P.M.) did not see the show. My own guests, who had driven in from the Bronx for the production, were turned away.

“I’m the reviewer,” I tried to convince the guy at the door.

“Man, we don’t get lines like this, even for the Sunday show. I’ll have a revolt. It wouldn’t be fair.”

My friends went to see a movie, and my date and I went to our corner seats, right by the couch where the Professor would later be shot (and not).

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On Uncle Vanya: Part 1

July 2, 2012 | by

I was in Saint Petersburg, at a restaurant owned by a friend. It was in a strange building, a kind of old mansion. He took me back through several empty ballrooms—you could feel the springs beneath the wooden floors, installed many years ago, for dancing. We sat together in a small room. It had only two tables, and its windows were hung with heavy curtains. It was one of those private dining rooms that you read about in Russian novels, and my friend began to bring me different dishes. I recognized only the blini with black and red caviar; everything else was new to me. At this time, thirteen years ago, I was a wine drinker, but they did not have wine worth drinking in Saint Petersburg then, and he was pouring me glasses of vodka. Then several government officials arrived, important men, and he left me alone.

I noticed my waitress was beautiful. She was taller than me, with high aristocratic cheekbones, pale skin, lips full of blood, big firm tits. Very much the woman you want, if you want a Russian beauty. The type that has since made exported Russian prostitutes famous throughout Europe, the Middle East, and (lately) even large cities in the U.S.

I was determined to have sex with a Russian whom I did not have to pay.

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An Event in the Stairwell

May 2, 2012 | by

The Milan Review—or, to give it its proper title, The Milan Review of the Universe—is an egregiously handsome literary magazine published in English, in Milan, under the editorship of the improbably named Tim Small. The second issue includes work by some of our own favorites, among them Amie Barrodale, Chiara Barzini, Francesco Pacifico, Lynne Tillman, and, not least, Clancy Martin, whose story the Milanese have kindly let us reprint below, in a spirit of international fraternità, and in light of the patchy trans-Atlantic distribution that our two journals have in common. Auguri! —Lorin Stein

Randy knocked on my door and when I opened it I expected he would attack me with the tennis racket in his hand. I had only bought pot from him before. He had no reason to hate me. But in his mind I am a rich white person.

“Emily’s not home,” I said. Emily is my girlfriend and I suspect, though do not know, that she has had sex with Randy at least once, or perhaps lots of times. He is younger and lither than I am. Probably better hung.

“She’s not home?”

“Right.” I kept my eyes on the racket. Also on his eyes, because you can anticipate a blow that way. Everyone narrows his eyes and looks where he’s going to hit you before he strikes. This is the first lesson of boxing.

“She promised she’d buy this racket from me. I got this racket special. From my daughter.”

Randy, Emily had told me, had a high school–age daughter who was expected by many people to be the next Serena Williams. She lived with her mother in the Bronx and was sponsored by Puma. I noticed the tennis racket had a broken string. Emily was hiding in the bedroom all this time and had instructed me to tell Randy that she was out. I could not decide whether that was reassuring or suspicious.

Emily had had her infidelities.

“How much does she owe you for the racket?”

I took the racket from his hand which he gave me without hesitation, although he looked down and away from me when he said, “Thirty dollars,” which meant he was lying. Probably he had told her he would give her the racket for free. But who knew what more tangible price she had promised to pay. Perhaps eagerly.

I briefly considered beating Randy on the face, head and shoulders with the very light and surely durable racket. We have tile in our stairwell and blood would mop up easily without staining. Randy was not the type to come back with a gun. That would be the last we’d ever see of him. I should have done it. Read More »

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Part 3: Time’s a Goon

December 27, 2011 | by

We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2011 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

The final installment of a three-part saga. Martin is hitchhiking from Kansas City, Missouri, to New York City in order to catch the last day of Christian Marclay's The Clock at the Paula Cooper Gallery. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

“You got a way of making a man get to talking, friend,” Sam told me. We had slowly worked our way into his life story, which involved him being adopted by Tennesseans who were somehow heirs or related to heirs of the Pepsi-Cola fortune, dropping out of Emory University, working part-time as an industrial air-conditioning chemical cleaning salesman, and then opening his own air-conditioning cleaning company, which in less than five years and with several hospital, university, and prison contracts across the Southeastern and now Midwestern states had turned him into an independent multimillionaire. But he was having “woman troubles”—I had gotten lucky with that lie—“because, to tell you the honest God’s truth, Clancy, and I ain’t proud to say it, I’ve got wives in four different states. Kids with two of them, and the third one’s pregnant. Even with my income it’s spreading it a bit thin. Thank the good Lord for my trust fund.” I knew if I kept Sam talking we’d sail right past Newark, and sure enough, when we got to his turn he was in the middle of the sad love story of Sam and Sally, and the fight they’d had in Bali last year when she realized all of the international calls he’d been making late at night “for business”—I shook my head with the great sympathy and genuine feeling of brotherly love one married man has for another in such situations—and as we approached the truck stop where he planned on leaving me (I was close enough now that I figured I would just call a cab, it couldn’t cost more than a hundred dollars), he said, “Where’d you say you’re headed again? Hell, we made it in half the time we figured.” Sam does not believe in letting the speedometer drop below “a C note.” Most of the way he was swooping between cars on the highway as though they were parked and we were a very low flying F-16. Time slows drunkenly at that speed, especially in an opulent, muscular truck, with a charismatic Korean chatting amiably beside you while you cling with sore fingers to the handle of the door, the soft tones of the iPod switching randomly from Gun Club to Elvis to Gyptian to Chopin’s Nocturnes.

 

“Far as we’ve come I guess I can take you right into Brooklyn.” The truck stop is already a mile behind us. “I sure as hell hope we don’t get snarled up in some Friday traffic. Course it’s not even rush hour yet, and we’re headed into the city, not the other way ’round. But I’m gonna be cursing your name when I’m driving back the other way. Hell, you look like you could use a favor. You’re in a bigger hurry than I am.” And back to Sally, who morphs seamlessly into Joanne, who I’m trying to keep straight from Christine, and wondering how many times Sam has said the wrong name in bed.

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Part 2: Escape to Newark

December 27, 2011 | by

We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2011 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

The second installment of a three-part saga. Martin is hitchhiking from Kansas City, Missouri, to New York City in order to catch the last day of Christian Marclay's The Clock at the Paula Cooper Gallery. Read Part 1 here.

“The thing is we gots to get my dog. I understand you got a bus to catch. But I can’t get my dog alone. You come this far, you gots to help me get my dog.”

My mouth is dry, we’ve gone through all the gum, and in gazing up the long reach of the highway as it ascends into the blue, late-morning sky I have achieved an atmospheric clarity with regard to the meaning of clocks. Marclay’s idea is to be at the center of things—that is the categorical imperative of the timing device, that is why the hands spin round. Being and time. Must check if Marclay is British neo-Nazi.

“But where was the center? I moved around a lot/ and thus from an early age,” I remember the line from John Ash, and quote it to Duze, who looks at me like “what the fuck” and wipes his hands on his jeans.

“We need some beers right about now, man, is what we need.”

“I am thirsty,” I admit. Suddenly I understand that we are out of luck, I have to get out of this semi as soon as possible. I’m Ratso from Midnight Cowboy and for three days now I’ve been sitting next to Jon Voigt. I’m sweatier than Ratso. I look to see if Duze has blood on his jacket.

 

I can count every sharp hair of his red-and-brown goatee. Duze is handsome but balding young.

“Pull over,” I say. My hourglass is filling with sand. I lick my lips. “I have to get out of this truck.”

Duze unsubtly accelerates. He swings into the left-hand lane.

“We’re up on Columbus now. But I’m telling ya’ we gots to head north. I need your help with my dog, man. My girlfrined ain’t gonna let me have that dog back lessun I have a buddy with me, someone she can trust. Not to mention if there’s another man there. That’s just like her. It doesn’t take her twenty-four hours before her legs are back up in the air. That bitch. That cold-hearted whore. She never appreciated my music neither.”

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