Saturday, March 08, 2014

Sox Knocker Saturday

by John Straley
Soho (Feb 2014)

Edna Whelaby, while sitting on the examining table, had once told Miles that she couldn't keep a boyfriend in town because of "everybody's damn sex radar." Edna was eight-three years old at the time and between boyfriends. Miles had known her all his life so it was with some trepidation that he asked to explain "sex radar" and to his discomfort she was happy to oblige:

"Ah, Christ Mary on a crutch, Miles. Everybody in the coffee shop, everybody at the post office or the library can tell if you've been sleeping with somebody. They just know. It's like radar. It's the least little thing. Lipstick on when it usually isn't. Teasing somebody when you usually don't, not teasing somebody when you should. These are all the signs, Miles, and the people around here just have a sense for it, I swear. One night in the sack and there's hell to pay when you go for your next cup of coffee. There's not enough men around who can stand up to that kind of treatment," she complained. "I've been thinking of moving to Juneau."

Miles had been skeptical. He thought the old woman was just elaborating to show off her superior knowledge of life. But after he had been alarmed when his own sex radar started to kick in. He saw a woman flush at the mention of someone's name. He noticed a fisherman, who had always slapped his money and the check down on the counter, was handing them to the waitress instead. It wasn't just that he handed it to her, either, for that could be just his attempt to flirt. It was the way her fingers curled up quickly around the money in a furtive attempt to touch the tips of his fingers; it was how she leaned forward on the dairy case and smiled as he came in and would sometimes walk around the counter when he left.

I've been a fan of John Straley's work for a long time. His titles alone snagged my interest:

The Woman Who Married a Bear
The Curious Eat Themselves
The Music of What Happens

and the books always had a special place in my heart.

It's good to have him back on the front list. Thank you Soho Press!

Here's what knocked my sox off about this passage: the perfect details.  It's the perfect, not the many, details that set a scene or convey character. It's clear the author has been watching people.  Even if he never saw anyone do any of these exact things, they FEEL true.   And with those details I am involved in the story so completely that it would take some sort of major clunker to break my attention. Of course, that didn't happen with this book. It's absolutely beautiful.

Did anything knock your sox off this week? Let me know in the comments column!


french sojourn said...

Write about you know...write about life. And the only way to know life is to really observe it.

My daughter and I love to play the game. "Did you see that?"

Unfortunately it drives my wife up a tree..."What guy with the eye patch driving the pick-up?"

Passing it down to another generation...the tiniest details that parade by daily.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

As the lead car at the red light my mother would arc a story about the man crossing the street, yanking the arm of the little girl he had just abducted, the woman with red swollen eyes fleeing her abusive husband and the old lady, shuffling her way in the crosswalk, back hunched from worry and heart broken from loneliness. Light turned green, book read until the next intersection.

Anonymous said...

I LOVED this passage...,the writing - oh boy. Funny, and dead on.

Did anything knock your sox off this week?

Yes. My absolute, latest obsession is TRUE DETECTIVE. It's so bad I've got The Handsome Family's FAR FROM ANY ROAD on repeat. Which means Nic Pizzolatto is my new writer hero. I have GALVESTON, which I started last night. My sox are gone, knocked off into the next century I believe. Not sure when I'll recover them.

Lance said...

Thank you for sharing. What a passage! Now I'm off to get a Straley.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Nothing knocked my sox this week and I'm ready to dig into my Kindle and find something new.

However, in Steve's new book, in the opening passage where he is describing the bar in the clubhouse, you immediately knew where he'd misspent part of his youth. It was dead on.


Unknown said...

I know I'm probably going to sound like an old record as I've mentioned this on Twitter several times already, but...
I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of Sharon Bayliss' new novel DESTRUCTION on Friday. I read it all in 24 hours and can't get it out of my head.

I read a lot. Sometimes for utter pleasure and other times with a purpose, for example if I'm doing a review.

This was utter pleasure (though, now I'll also be doing an author Q&A and review in May).

Steve Stubbs said...

This might knock your sox off. Somebody posted it on facebook. It consists of 20 horror stories, each told in exactly two sentences. If your feet get cold for lack of sox, feel free to stop reading.

Janet Reid said...

Here's the link to Steve's list.  I had to stop reading by #8.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

We had fun with that one on Facebook. My comment entry was:

Bells pealed and tongues wagged as the May/December couple left the church. What they didn't know is that the local taxidermist had finally found the perfect trophy wife.

Unknown said...

I've read these before--and I've never forgotten #13.