December 4, 2014

Happy All the TIme

and I was, at least for every minute on the bus with this book. :)

Vincent Cardworthy and Guido Morris are third cousins and best friends. They are young but no longer very young, cerebral, a little sappy, and vaguely dissatisfied with the women they are dating and their comfortable, unsettled lives. As they settle into their unusual jobs (Guido runs a family foundation, and Vincent studies garbage at an urban planning think tank), they spend a restless Sunday afternoon {on 'the sort of day that forced you out of the house and gave you nothing back in return'} at the Fogg Museum.

On the way out, Guido saw a girl sitting on a bench. She was slender, fine-boned, and her was the blackest, sleekest hair Guido had ever seen. It was worn the way Japanese children wear theirs, only longer. Her face seemed to print itself on his heart indelibly.
      He stopped to stare at her and when she finally looked back, she glared through him. Guido nudged Vincent and they moved toward the bench on which she sat.
      'The perspective is perfect,' said Guido. 'Notice the subtlety of line and the intensity of color.'
      'Very painterly,' said Vincent. 'What is it?'
      'I'll have to look iit up,' said Guido. 'It appears to be an inspired mix of schools. Notice that the nose tilts -- a very slight distortion giving the illusion of perfect clarity.; He pointed to her collar. 'Note the exquisite folds around the neck and the drapery of the rest of the figure.'
      During this recitation, the girl sat perfectly still. Then, with deliberation, she lit a cigarette.
      'Notice the arc of the arm,' Guido continued. The girl opened her perfect mouth.
      'Notice the feeblemindedness that passes for wit among aging graduate students,' she said. Then she got up and left.


Vincent was unhappy. The incident with Rachel Montgomery had truly horrified him. What he had thought of as a silly, social life had taken a turn toward the indicative, and what this indicated depressed him. Was he fated to be silly forever? Was it his destiny to fall in with married blond girls for the rest of his life? Did he have a tragic flaw? Was his luck the residue of his own design? Vincent began to consider his romantic conduct. He was unused to this form of thought. It turned his conception of the world upside down. He continued t see Winne when the Toad's schedule permitted, but he did so with a sinking heart. When he dialed her number, he gritted his teeth, as if it were a form of penance. Then he celebrated his birthday with Holly and Guido. This warm and happy evening left him miserable once he was home alone. Holly and Guido has just the sort of apartment Vincent had imagined:  it was on the tenth floor of an old building and it looked like a little French country house in the sky. Holly cooked his favorite meal and Guido poured his favorite wine. After dinner, they sat before the first fire of the autumn eating apples and drinking brandy. Vincent wanted to stay forever. When he left, he felt that domestic happiness was forcing the extra man out the door and onto the lonely streets.
       His heart was further burdened by a discovery at the Board of City Planning. Now that Vincent had stopped traveling, he had time to investigate his colleagues. One morning, Vincent had discovered a girl named Misty Berkowitz. He found her sitting in her office, slumped over her old-fashioned calculator stirring her coffee with a fountain pen. She had amber-colored hair that fell into her eyes and small gold spectacles that slipped down her nose. She looked bored and misanthropic. The sight of her caused Vincent's heart to leap in an unexpected manner. He poked his head into her doorway and said good morning in a cheery fashion. Misty Berkowitz looked up.
      'Get the hell away from me,' she growled.
      Later, she came to his office to apologize.
      'It's hell in the morning,' she said. Vincent was about to begin a conversation, but Misty Berkowitz had vanished.
Ah, romance. Everyone is moody, complicated, restless, emotional, articulate and groping for happiness, and I loved spending time with them.

Happy All the Time is Laurie Colwin's second novel, published in 1978.  Her books have just been re-issued as ebooks by Open Road Media, and I hope that more readers will discover her fiction this way. {I was very happy to receive a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for writing about it.}


JoAnn said...

I recently enjoyed Colwin's first essay collection... can't wait to try her fiction!.

Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

I'm so looking forward to reading this! The publisher got in touch with me after I commented on your last post, offering review copies of this and Home Cooking. I devoured Home Cooking last week and look forward to reading this even more.

Nan said...

I also loved this book. I wrote about it here, if you want to read it.

Such a loss to the world. I love all her work.