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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Chez Lambert by Jonathan Franzen

Enid and Alfred are an older couple who have lived together for many years and yet each has their own tendencies and imperfections. "She was looking for a letter that had come by registered mail some weeks ago. She had stashed it somewhere quickly because Alfred had heard the mailman ring the bell and shouted, 'Enid! Enid!' but had not heard her shout, 'Al, I'm getting it!' . . . 'There's somebody at the door!; and she'd fairly screamed, 'The mailman! The mailman!' and he'd shaken his head at the complexity of it all."
Both voices in this story are surprisingly similar to what one would hear from an older couple. One part of the story is particularly worth quoting:
"Until he retired, Alfred had slept in an armchair that was black...The chair was made of leather that you could smell the cow in. His new chair, the great blue one to the west of the Ping-Pong table, was built for sleeping and sleeping only. It was overstuffed, vaguely gubernatorial. It smelled like the inside of a Lexus. Like something modern and medical and impermeable that you could wipe the smell of death off easily, with a damp cloth, before the next person sat down to die in it.
The chair was the only major purchase Alfred ever made without Enid's approval. I see him at sixty-seven, a retired mechanical engineer walking the aisles of those Midwestern furniture stores that only people who consider bargains immoral go to . . . For his entire working life he has taken naps in chairs subordinate to Enid's color schemes, and now he has received nearly five thousand dollars in retirement gifts . . . After a lifetime of providing for others, he needs even more than deep comfort and unlimited sleep: he needs public recognition of this need."
The end of the story is equally wry and witty: "Al? What are you doing?" . . ."I am ---. . . packing my suitcase," he heard himself say. This sounded right. Verb, possessive, noun. Here was a suitcase in front of him, an important confirmation. He'd betrayed nothing." . . .
"Its Thursday," she said, louder. "We're not going till Saturday."
"Saturday!" he echoed.
This is by far one of the more funny short stories that I have read: I only look forward to the time when I will be just like Alfred.

2 comments:

shersy said...

You make me curious about what happens in this story! Sounds like a fun one.....

Trudy T said...

Lying beside me in this bed is my husband of fifty two years, one of the most intelligent people I ever knew, and my best friend. His life was one of constant innovation, ideas, and leadership.
We have been traveling for four days, and this man,who spent years "on the road"first as the national sales manager for several companies and then as a business consultant, cannot really comprehend where we are going or how we are going to get there. He is in the process of leaving me. He is Albert, and you do not want to be him. Not ever.