Tuesday, May 20, 2008


In what I think will be the last post linking Ed Park's Personal Days to Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov, we turn to the place of unusual appearance in business dealings.

First Ed tells us about the office's tarty bombshell, Maxine, whose faith in the powers of an outfit that can be described only with the aid of italics is, unexpectedly, proved to be misplaced:
Maxine's new outfit was completely inappropriate for winter, in fact for any season or situation. It had two kinds of pink going on, and ornate beaded strappy things, and a fairly explicit bondage motif. There were parallelograms of exposed flesh that were illegal in most states, a bow in the back that looked like a winding key. One area involved fur. Her hair had a fresh-from-salon bounce that clashed with the rest of the getup, but this being Maxine, everything kind of went together in the end. . . . Pru and Lizzie instinctively flinched. They might as well have been rolling on the ground like bowling pins, with xs for eyes.

With her female competition out of the way, Maxine leveled her extremely hot gaze right at Grime, who stood his ground. He swayed in place, gently rocking on one heel. Maxine was saying something about Wednesday, but it wasn't clear whether she meant tomorrow or last Wednesday.

Grime's not-flinching was making Maxine flinch. It looked like a nod but it was actually a flinch. Lizzie and Pru saw it all unfold. They're filing away the subtleties for Jack II and his blog. Maxine lost the thread of what she was saying, eyes gleaming in panic. She could have been talking about the general concept of Wednesday, its status as a hump day, its complicated spelling. No one had seen her quiver like this before. It was like she'd been set in italics.

There was a historical vibe to the scene.
Then there's Goncharov's account of Oblomov's landlord, who is, perhaps intentionally, awkward and a bit grotesque:
The brother tip-toed into the room and responded to Oblomov's greeting with a triple bow. His tunic was tightly buttoned from top to bottom so that it was impossible to tell whether he was wearing any linen underneath. His tie was knotted with a single knot and the ends were tucked inside the tunic. He was about forty with a tuft of hair sticking straight up from his brown and with two identical tufts sprouting, wild and untended, from each temple, resembling nothing so much as the ears of an average-sized dog. His gray eyes never settled on their target directly, but only after some stealthy reconnoitering in its vicinity.

It seemed as if he were ashamed of his hands and whenever he spoke to someone he did his best to keeping them out of sight, either placing both hands behind his back or keeping one tucked inside his coat and holding the other behind his back. When handing a document requiring some explanation to a supervisor he would keep one hand behind his back and, with the middle finger of his other hand, making sure to keep the nail pointing downwards, he would point to the line or word in question. Then, at the earliest possible moment he would tuck the hand out of sight, maybe because his fingers were on the thick side, reddish and trembling slightly, and he felt, not unreasonably, that it was somehow too indelicate to expose them too frequently to public scrutiny.
Despite that seeming insecurity, the landlord manages to successfully dun the relatively hapless Oblomov for 1,354 roubles and twenty-eight kopecks for a two-week rental.

Were we able to jumble these scenes, I think that Oblomov might successfully deploy his congenital mix of apathy and vagueness to hold out against Grime's unflappability, whereas I have no question that Maxine's wardrobe (mal)function would cut the landlord's bill at least in half.

As Patricia Highsmith might have put it, criss-cross! Inter-novelistic loans, that's what we need!

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