THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the blue…, wait, no, green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this green lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could… wait a minute, I’m sorry. I meant to say blue lawn. Aw hell. Sorry, sorry, can I try that again?
* * *
PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
After dessert, I am back in the bathroom again. I burrow through the week’s laundry until I uncover one of my sister’s soiled brassiere. I string one shoulder strap over the knob of the bathroom door and the other on the knob of the linen closet: a scarecrow to bring on more dreams. “Oh beat it, Big Boy, beat it to a red-hot pulp-” so I am being urged by the little cups of Hannah’s brassier, when a rolled-up newspaper smacks at the door.
“Come on, give somebody else a crack at the bowl, will you?” My father says. “I haven’t moved my bowels in a week.”
I am about to answer him when I lose my equilibrium and stumble off the toilet seat, collapsing onto the floor with a loud crash.
“Open up, Alex,” my father calls, but I can hear his voice cracking. “I want you to… to…”
He loses it completely and we both laugh at my clumsiness. I pull up my pants and attempt to unhook the brassiere, but it snaps back and hits me in the face.
“Are you okay?” My father asks, opening the door to peek inside. His face is red from laughter.
I just shrug at him, massaging my swollen jaw. I pretend to be retarded, making a comical exit out of the bathroom, as my father continues to howl.
* * *
A MAN IN FULL by Tom Wolfe
Just then he heard the Hyundai drive up and stop outside. The engine had a rattling sound you couldn’t miss. Little feet were running on the hard ground of the strip of yard beside the duet. He left the bathroom and went out into the living room.
He expected the door to burst open, and for Carl, five years old and furious, to come storming in. He might have noticed that Carl was a beautiful little boy, blond and fair like his mother, with hair that came down over his forehead in thick straight bangs. But he didn’t, because the boy had missed his cue.
“My bad,” Carl said when he finally stumbled inside ten minutes later. “Can we pick it up at the top?”
* * *
SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
She had two big cans of soup for the Americans. It was simmering over low fires on the gas range. She asked Gluck if he wasn’t awfully young to be in the army. He admitted that he was. She asked Edgar Derby if he wasn’t awfully old to be in the army. He said he was. She asked Gluck again if he wasn’t awfully young to be in the army.
“Didn’t you already ask me that?” he said.
She blushed with embarrassment as Gluck and Edgar chuckled, slapping the table and making goofy faces at each other.
“My fault,” she said. It was true. So it goes.
* * *
CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
She looked nice, smoking. She inhaled and all, but she didn’t wolf the smoke down, the way most women around her age do. She had a lot of charm. She had quite a lot of sex appeal, too, if you really want to know.
She was looking at me sort of funny. “I may be wrong, but I believe your nose is bleeding, dear,” she said, all of a sudden.
I nodded and took out my handkerchief. But as I tried to wipe away the blood, I only managed to smear it across my face. She noticed this and looked away, a giggle forcing its way out of her throat.
“I got hit with a snowball,” I said, trying to maintain my composure. I continued dabbing at the blood with my handkerchief, but this only made it worse. I contorted my face into a bewildered expression, mugging for the reader.
“Wa-ga-ga,” I said for no reason, as if I had temporarily lost the capacity for speech.
* * *
GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
When the morning came they awakened nervously. Rose of Sharon whispered to Ma.
Ma nodded her head. “Yes,” she said. “It’s time for it.” And then she turned to the car door, where the men lay.
“We’re a-getting’ outa here,” she said savagely.
Al said, “Ma, I ain’t goin’.”
“I’ll stay here. Take care of the stuff. When the water goes down, you can came back ‘fore it rains again.”
“Hold on now,” Ma told Al. “That was my line.”
“Was it?” Al asked.
“Ma’s right,” Rose of Sharon said. “She was supposed to say that. You skipped ahead by at least a paragraph.”
“Well then,” Al said. “I suppose we should start again.”
* * *
BELOVED by Toni Morrison
And the chain gang beat. The women for having known them and no more, no more; the children for having been them but never again. They killed a boss so often and so completely they had to bring him back to life to plup him one more… I’m sorry, did I just say “plup”? I think I meant “pulp.” Jesus, I have my head up my ass today.
* * *
THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY by Michael Chabon
Josef stood when his old teacher came in, clutching his hat to his chest. Kornblum could see from the flush in his cheeks and the excess of care he took to avoid knocking his head against the low sloping ceiling that the boy was quite drunk.
“What is it, son?” said Kornblum. “Why are you here?”
“I’m not here,” Josef replied. “I…” But before he could finish, he hit his head against the ceiling, and momentarily forgot his next line. Kornblum was unable to contain himself, and snickered at his partner’s unintended gaff. Josef could only nod at the hilarity of it all.
“Very funny,” he said, with a trace of sarcasm in his voice.
* * *
HILLS LIKE WHITE ELEPHANTS by Ernest Hemingway
“What should we drink?” the girl asked. She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.
“It’s pretty hot,” the man said.
“Let’s drink beer.”
“Dos Cervaza,” the man said into the curtain.
“Cervaza?” The girl asked, a sly grin on her face. “Did you just say Cervaza?”
“Shit,” the man said.
* * *
HILLS LIKE WHITE ELEPHANTS take 2
“Let’s drink beer.”
“Dos Cer-,” the man said, unable to find the word. “Uh, Dos… Cer-ve…”
“Cervezas,” the girl helped him, before breaking into laughter. “Dos Cervezas.”
“Son of a bitch,” the man said, leaving the table. “Why can’t I get this? Cervezas, Cervezas, Cervezas!”
“It’s okay,” the girl said.