Jernigan: A Novel
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From Holden Caulfield to Moses Herzog, our best literature has been narrated by malcontents. To this lineage add Peter Jernigan, who views the world with ferocious intelligence, grim rapture, and a chainsaw wit that he turns, with disastrous consequences, on his wife, his teenaged son, his dangerously vulnerable mistress—and, not least of all, on himself. This novel is a bravura performance: a funny, scary, mesmerizing study of a man walking off the edge with his eyes wide open—wisecracking all the way.
Pulitzer Prize finalist and National Book Critics Circle Award.
all this time, which I’d been assuming was just a pleasant hallucination, was actually Uncle Fred singing arpeggios—ha ha ha HA ha ha ha—slapping his palms on the surface of the water in rhythm and marvelling at the echoes. Of which there were many, many. I told Uncle Fred—and I wasn’t trying to flatter him at all—that it was the most incredible music I’d ever heard, more incredible than, like, Mahler. Don’t ask me why Mahler. Then we found our way back to the trailer, with the sun making jewels
went back and lay down on the couch again to wait for my head to stop hurting. It was as silent as before. Christ, what if they were in there like what’s-his-name? If they’d put on this show of being oh so happy and had actually chosen today to carry out their suicide pact. And my fingerprints all over. Oh, I wasn’t serious. Just one more thought; it doesn’t pay off anyplace later in the story. I got up again and went to the table and had a good old belt of that Absolut right out of the bottle.
the door. “Christmas comes but once a year.” Mr. Gracious. Snow was really coming down. The walkway was completely white, and just a few blades of grass were sticking up out of the white lawn. It was a little warmer inside than out, but the stove had cooled enough to put your hand on. You could hear the tv going in the kids’ room. I got the stove started and sat there in my coat. First the heat hit my shins. Then I felt it on my face. Then I went out to fetch Martha. The car was throbbing away
down. Couple flakes of snow. On the GW again, pretty adequately fuzzed by this time, driving into that sunset, the golden glare ahead inviting me just to close my eyes and be absorbed. Thinking about Judith again. There must have been a nanosecond there when she went Oh my God and then Oh all right, fuck it. I had another headache. Or more of the same headache. From squinting. From that God damn hand hurting. From worrying about how bad I was being, disappearing for hours on Christmas Day, drunk,
where it is tonight.” Then he went upstairs. Neither of them came down again. 2 I sat and drank more gin. Got out Martha’s Rand McNally Road Atlas and looked at New Hampshire-Vermont. Oh, I knew the way to Uncle Fred’s camp: I just wanted to look at the lone dot and at the red and blue roads like veins and arteries. Then turned on the tv and watched the Channel 9 news. At least we weren’t on it: there was that to be said for the Channel 9 news. I preferred the Channel 7 news because I was