Friday, December 2, 2016

An Arnold Schnabel Potpourri, Vol. 1


Yes, if all goes well we should be publishing Volume One of Arnold Schnabel's memoirs within the next couple of weeks, in both paper and electronic forms, but in the meantime, in lieu of any new episodes at this time, we present this selection of bons mots culled from that volume
, suitable for recitation at dinner parties or literary gatherings, or for private pondering in the dark watches of a sleepless night:


I did something I should not have done yesterday. Against not only several doctors’ orders but my own personal experience and supposed good sense, I had one too many last night, all right, perhaps two, what am I saying, three, all right, say four, four too many considering two is my limit and I had six, but no, wait, I think I had seven.
****
The day after my previously recounted escapade at the Pilot House was no worse than what might have been expected, viz., killing hangover, suicidal depression, pathetic and meaningless remorse and guilt, and unremitting boredom relieved only by an infinite self-loathing, in other words nothing to get excited about, just another day at Villa Schnabel.
****
She arrived, stepping in from the still-bright but dying summer daylight. I suppose she felt she looked radiant. Her hair was like some modernistic light fixture with a hundred watt bulb turned on inside it. She wore a flowery dress of what looked and eventually felt like wallpaper, and she reeled towards me on high heels.
****
The waiter handed me a wine list. All I knew was you were supposed to drink red wine with meat and white with fish. But she had ordered lobster and meat, making the choice impossible. I settled on a bottle of Mateus rosé.
****
I kissed her. It didn’t kill me to do so. And for once I surrendered, and I fell, and it was as if a great part of me finally opened up to life. Previously I had felt that nothing could be quite as pleasant as lying in bed on a cool afternoon with nothing to do, staring at the ceiling and dreaming of a world beyond this world, but now I was not so sure.
****
Her eyes, which seemed suddenly to have grown enormously, looked into mine. I felt as if I could fall into them. So here I was, precariously suspended between being thrust backward out into the stars or falling into this interior universe which seemed to me just as unknowable.
****
Perhaps life didn’t have to be so difficult after all. Perhaps I had been denying myself life itself all my life in the service of some random superstition. After all, what if I had been born a Hindu, or a Pygmy, or a Hottentot...
****

The air was cool and clean and fresh, the ocean wind smelled alive with the grace of the universe, of seaweed and salt and bushels of glistening fresh oysters, and so naturally I had to have a cigarette.

****

I awoke next morning feeling odd. Well, I should say, odder than usual. I lay there and realized that one odd thing I was feeling was not hungover. So that was one good thing about marijuana.


****

People were slowly walking up the bright street, in their bathing suits, carrying their umbrellas and beach chairs and blankets and towels, in this already stifling and blazing heat. They were quite mad, to go to the beach on such a day. But then of course it was their vacation and they wanted to get their money's worth. But they were mad nonetheless. They would broil on that merciless beach like so many lobsters. Even I was not that insane.
****
My aunts and mother tend never actually to eat a meal, per se. One of them will eat half a slice of toast, say, and then pass it on to one of her sisters. If it’s a big holiday meal, forget it, they won’t even sit down for more than a minute at a time. There’s no changing them. And yet they’re all rather solid somehow, and strong, albeit very short. They’re almost like the remnants of some race of immortal and stoutly-built dwarves who have emerged from the darkest depths of the Schwarzwald to dwell for a time among men.

****

I sat in the shade of an oak tree while Kevin crept down to stare at the ducks. He stopped at the water’s edge and crouched down. Some ducks slowly glided back and forth along the water’s surface. They looked bored, but then it was a hot day.

****

The shop was busy on this rainy day, what else was there to do for poor vacationers? Well, at least this was one day when they wouldn’t have to lie in the blistering heat of the beach, their flesh burning, their children wailing. They could drag themselves and their families into places like this and eat pie and ice cream.
What joy.

****

When I awoke again I felt much better, very rested. The rain was still coming down, but much more lightly now, and the wind had settled too. The green of the leaves on the oak tree outside my window sparkled dully, like seaweed in clear water.

****


Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Female Residence"



We are at last entering the "formatting and layout" stage in the publication of Volume One of the memoirs of Arnold Schnabel – which we hope to have ready in time for the holiday gift-giving season – and so, once again, in the temporary absence of any new episodes of Arnold's magnum opus, we present the first page of yet another inexplicably out-of-print classic by Arnold's good friend Horace P. Sternwall:

“Ah, gee, Betsy,” said Thad. “I wish I could come up for a while. Just for a cup of coffee.”

“You know Mrs. Jamieson doesn’t permit us to bring gentleman visitors to our rooms.”

“Yeah, I know, Betsy, but gee.”

“Anyway I never drink coffee this late at night.”

“We wouldn’t have to drink coffee,” said Thad.

“What do you mean by that.”

“Well, we could drink soda pop.”

“Goodnight, Thad.”

“Goodnight, Betsy. What about tomorrow night? There’s that new Cocteau film at the Thalia. It’s supposed to be quite artistic. What do you think?”

“Pardon me?”

“Tomorrow night?”

“Yes?”

“Cocteau film? At the Thalia?”

“What about it?”

“I was just asking if you, uh –”

Betsy yawned, deeply.

“Oh, excuse me,” she said. “I’m just all in. Goodnight, Brad.”

“Thad.”

“Thad I mean. Goodnight.”

Thad swiftly got the door and opened it for her.

“Goodnight, Betsy!”

Yawning again, patting her mouth with her white-gloved hand, Betsy walked through the door and into the lobby.

“I’ll ring you tomorrow,” called Thad, hopefully, as the door closed.

Mrs. Slivotitz was behind the desk, and a slender girl in grey sat with her legs crossed on the most comfy armchair, smoking a cigarette and reading a movie magazine. As Betsy walked past her on the way to the elevator the girl spoke without looking up from her magazine.

“What a drip!”

“Pardon me?” said Betsy, stopping, trying to stifle another yawn.

“I said what a drip,” said the girl, looking up from her magazine.

“Who?”

“Your boyfriend out there.”

“Oh,” said Betsy, and she held in yet another yawn, blinking her thick dark eyelashes. “Brad.”

Female Residence, by “Horatia P. Stevenson” (Horace P. Sternwall); a Pyramid paperback original, 1952; one printing only, never republished.

(Scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to the opening passages of some other fine but sadly out-of-print novels by Horace P. Sternwall.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

"The Burglar and the Babe"



Our staff is merrily completing its painstaking preparations for the publication of Volume One of the Memoirs of Arnold Schnabel in time for the holiday gift-giving season,  and so, in lieu of any new episodes of Arnold's chef-d'œuvre at the present time, we once again present a snippet of a long out-of-print novel by Arnold's good friend Horace P. Sternwall:

Willie “The Bat” Jones slipped through the window and came down silently onto the floor in a crouch. He wore tight black leather gloves, and in his left hand he carried the leather case containing his tools and the carefully-folded nylon loot sack. His right hand he held straight out before him in the darkness, fingers outspread and slightly quivering, like antennae. The house would most likely be completely unoccupied for at least two more hours, but nevertheless (and as was his usual modus operandi) Willie did not risk using even a penlight. Instead he closed his eyes, breathing slowly and regularly, and waited patiently for one full minute. When he opened his eyes again his vision had adjusted to the darkness, and now he continued the doing of his business, his trade, his art.

After cleaning out the safe in the study and then collecting the two antique Purdey shotguns from the library along with several rare first editions of Pope, Swift, and Smollett, but before going into the master bedroom, he went into the daughter’s room and headed immediately for the Harry Winston jewelry box he knew to be on the dresser in there.

The light next to the bed switched on, revealing a very pretty young woman sitting up in the bed.  She wore a nightgown that revealed more of her breasts than it concealed.

“Have you come here to kill me?” she asked.

“No,” said Willy. “I came here to rob you.”

She reached over to the night table and took a cigarette from an engraved silver case which Willy's practiced eye identified as Bailey, Banks & Biddle, worth a grand if it was worth a dime. She lighted the cigarette (with a Tiffany lighter, 18-karat yellow gold) and slowly exhaled smoke in Willy's direction.

"How would you like to make some real money?" she asked.

The Burglar and the Babe, by Horace P. Sternwall; an Ajax paperback original, 1954; republished as The Burgled and the Damned, by “Harrison P. Shockley”, in paperback, by The Faber Workman’s Library (UK), 1956.

(Scroll down the right-hand column of this page to find a listing of links to the opening passages of some other fine but sadly obscure novels by Horace P. Sternwall.)

Friday, November 11, 2016

"The Blowhard"


Yes, our dedicated staff of interns and graduate students are still feverishly preparing Volume One of the memoirs of Arnold Schnabel for publication as an actual "book" in time for the holiday gift-giving season, and so, in lieu of any new episodes of Arnold's
magnum opus at this time, we present the opening paragraphs of another "lost" novel by Arnold's good friend Horace P. Sternwall...

Pete Willingham had opinions, lots of opinions, but the problem was that nobody in Wheeler’s Corners would listen to him anymore.



“Shut the hell up, Pete,” they would say when they came into Baxter’s General Store, where Pete had worked since he was fifteen years old.

“Stuff it, Pete,” they would say, “nobody wants to hear what you have to say.”



“For God’s sake, stick a sock in it, Pete,” they would say.



Finally Mr. Baxter realized he was losing business because of Pete, and so, after many warnings, one fine day he fired Pete.


Pete didn’t mind. Getting fired was just the push he needed. He had just finished a correspondence course in public speaking, and he had saved up close to one hundred dollars, so he packed up a cardboard suitcase and took the bus for New York City, where he intended to realize his dream of having his own radio program, and then people would listen to him, they would listen to him good.



The Blowhard, by Horace P. Sternwall (Top Shelf Books, 1951;  “paperback original”, one printing only, never republished).

(Cover painting by James Avati. Scroll down the right hand column of this page to find a listing of many more excerpts from the sadly-obscure oeuvre of Horace P. Sternwall.)