The Runaway Soul
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Acclaimed New Yorker writer Brodkey set the literary world ablaze with this much-talked-about debut novel--a literary tour de force about an adopted child in the early 1930s who is raised in the St. Louis household of his cousins. "Impressive. . . . The work of a lifetime. . . . As haunted by love, death, and madness as The Oresteia".--Washington Post Book World.
pistol . . . she’s as hot as a pistol . . . At school, some of the softer-fibered girls scare me and seem almost unreal and to be part of a different order of human being; the homosexual boys and girls, however, don’t seem unreal, merely temperamental. Nonie’s breath cackles—it’s a family trait: S.L. had it slightly; and Daniel. I mentioned her dyed reddish-yellow hair: she is a girl of the free world, a democratic windblown girl of the era; and her blouse and her bra and its straps and her
said. Pause. Emma-Jean said, “Boy, you’re really somethin’.” “People have to fight back!” Daniel said. “Maybe she shouldn’t fight back—if we’re talking moral stuff . . . You ever hear of taking turns?” I said. “That would be a fine kettle of fish, that would be some world—that would be a horror-show-and-half, [if] you could film that one . . .” Coral Emma-Jean Marie said. “Coming out on top?” Benjie asked me snidely, feeling my isolation. “Taking turns?” I said to Coral Emma-Jean. “Not
I am as pure as the driven snow . . . It’s a joke . . . But I really am. Try to corrupt me: see what happens . . . I’ll have your head cut off. I do an A-number-one bang-up job when I set out to do anything. The truth is, around here the psychiatrist has to take a back seat TO ME—I am good with the boys . . . I am not a whore . . . War is no blessing . . . I keep my nerve . . . I do my work . . . Men can’t boast, but a girl can . . . ha-ha. I’d rather be a girl than a stupid smelly boy with hairy
part . . . I was kind of shattered but I meant to dance with her up to the edge of the grave if she wanted—to be polite in that way, to that extent, at the end. The thinking and remembering she has done is sifted and purified now by one of her purposes, to treat me as her own flesh-and-blood, that is a point of the exercise—one of the points of the exercise. All the times she has thought of this stuff and of telling me, the thinking and remembering—and the decision to speak—the way it leaves me
realities of desire, desires and their weird breaking quality of onrushing hallucinatory, mostly extreme, romantic extremism. “I can’t have you . . . Oh, I’m so sad,” she said tactfully. I say out loud, struttingly bitter, “So I lose it all . . . It is really scary, how completely I get nothing but compliments . . .” She said, “Wiley, no one talks like this . . .” She is staring at me. “I love this stuff,” I say. Then: “Never mind . . . It makes me no-never-mind . . .” The fullness of