A Model World And Other Stories

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-02-08
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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By the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

Table of Contents

Part I: A Model World
S Angel
Ocean Avenue
A Model World
Blumenthal on the Air
Part II: The Lost World
The Little Knife
More Than Human
The Halloween Party
The Lost World


A Model World and Other Stories

Chapter One
S Angel

On the morning of his cousin's wedding Ira performed his toilet, as he always did, with patience, hope, and a ruthless punctilio. He put on his Italian wool trousers, his silk shirt, his pink socks, to which he imputed a certain sexual felicity, and a slightly worn but still serviceable Willi Smith sport jacket. He shaved the delta of skin between his eyebrows and took a few extra minutes to clean out the inside of his car, a battered, faintly malodorous Japanese hatchback of no character whatever. Ira never went anywhere without expecting that when he arrived there he would meet the woman with whom he had been destined to fall in love. He drove across Los Angeles from Palms to Arcadia, where his cousin Sheila was being married in a synagogue Ira got lost trying to find. When he walked in late he disturbed the people sitting at the back of the shul, and his aunt Lillian, when he joined her, pinched his arm quite painfully. The congregation was dour and Conservative, and as the ceremony dragged on Ira found himself awash in a nostalgic tedium, and he fell to wishing for irretrievable things.

At the reception that followed, in the banquet room of the old El Imperio Hotel in Pasadena, he looked in vain for one of his more interesting young female cousins, such as Zipporah from Berkeley, who was six feet tall and on the women's crew at Cal, or that scary one, Leah Black, who had twice, in their childhoods, allowed Ira to see what he wanted to see. Both Ira and Sheila sprang from a rather disreputable branch of Wisemans, however, and her wedding was poorly attended by the family. All the people at Ira's table were of the groom's party, except for Ira's greataunts, Lillian and Sophie, and Sophie's second husband, Mr. Lapidus.

"You need a new sport jacket," said Aunt Sophie.

"He needs a new watch," said Aunt Lillian.

Mr. Lapidus said that what Ira needed was a new barber. A lively discussion arose at table 17, as the older people began to complain about contemporary hairstyles, with Ira's itself--there was some fancy clipperwork involved--cited frequently as an instance of their inscrutability. Ira zoned out and ate three or four pounds of the salmon carpaccio with lemon cucumber and cilantro that the waiters kept bringing around, and also a substantial number of boletus, mushroom-and-goat-cheese profiteroles. He watched the orchestra members, particularly the suave-looking black tenor saxophonist with dreadlocks, and tried to imagine what they were thinking about as they blew all that corny cha-cha-cha. He watched Sheila and her new husband whispering and box-stepping, and undertook the same experiment. She seemed pleased enough--smiling and flushed and mad to be wearing that dazzling dress--but she didn't look like she was in love, as he imagined love to look. Her eye was restive, vaguely troubled, as though she were trying to remember exactly who this man was with his arms around her waist, tipping her backward on one leg and planting a kiss on her throat.

It was as he watched Sheila and Barry walk off the dance floor that the woman in the blue dress caught Ira's eye, then looked away. She was sitting with two other women, at a table under one of the giant palm trees that stood in pots all across the banquet room, which the hotel called the Oasis Room and had been decorated to suit. When Ira returned her gaze he felt a pleasant internal flush, as though he had just knocked back a shot of whiskey. The woman's expression verged a moment on nearsightedness before collapsing into a vaguely irritable scowl. Her hair was frizzy and tinted blond, her lips were thick and red but grim and disapproving, and her eyes, which might have been gray or brown, were painted to match her electric dress. Subsequent checking revealed that her body had aged better than her fading face, which nonetheless he found beautiful, and in which, in the skin at her throat and around her eyes, he thought he read strife and sad experience and a willingness to try her luck.

Ira stood and approached the woman, on the pretext of going over to the bar, a course which required that he pass her table. As he did so he stole another long look, and eavesdropped on an instant of her conversation. Her voice was soft and just a little woeful as she addressed the women beside her, saying something deprecating, it seemed to Ira, about lawyers' shoes. The holes in her earlobes were filled with simple gold posts. Ira swung like a comet past the table, trailing, as he supposed, a sparkling wake of lustfulness and Eau Sauvage, but she seemed not to notice him, and when he reached the bar he found, to his surprise, that he genuinely wanted a drink. His body was unpredictable and resourceful in malfunction, and he was not, as a result, much of a drinker; but it was an open bar, after all. He ordered a double shot of Sauza.

There were two men talking behind him, waiting for their drinks, and Ira edged a little closer to them, without turning around, so that he could hear better. He was a fourth-year drama student at UCLA and diligent about such valuable actorly exercises as eavesdropping, spying, and telling complicated lies to fellow passengers on airplanes.

"That Charlotte was a class A, top-of-the-line, capital B-I-T bitch," said one of the men, in the silky tones of an announcer on a classical music station. "And fucked up from her ass to her eyebrows. " He had a very faint New York accent.

"Exactly, exactly," said the other, who sounded older, and well-accustomed to handing out obsequious counsel to young men. "No question. You had to fire her."

"I should have done it the day it happened. Ha ha. Pow, fired in her own bed."

"Exactly. Ha ha."

"Ira!" It was his cousin, the bride, bright and still pink from dancing. Sheila had long, kinky black hair, spectacular eyelashes, and a nose that, like Ira's, flirted dangerously, but on the whole successfully, with immenseness. He thought she looked really terrific, and he congratulated her wistfully...

A Model World and Other Stories. Copyright © by Michael Chabon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Model World and Other Stories by Michael Chabon
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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