Julianna Baggott Girl Talk

ISBN 13: 9780743400831

Girl Talk

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9780743400831: Girl Talk

Lissy Jablonski was fifteen during the summer of 1985. That was the summer her father, a soft-spoken gynecologist, up and left her mother for a redheaded bank teller. The same summer Lissy and her mother disappeared from their quiet New Hampshire lives to have an adventure of their own amid a cast of unlikely characters, including a Valium-addicted ex-debutante and a suspected mobster. The summer the reliably comforting "girl talks" with her mother began to reveal startling secrets.
Now an almost-thirty-year-old advertising executive in Manhattan, faced with her father's imminent death and newly pregnant by her married ex-lover, an unmoored Lissy finds herself looking back across the years. Contending with her affections for an old flame and his doomed marriage to a Korean stripper named Kitty Hawk, as well as the tangible legacies of that unmentionable summer with her mother, she realizes that she has become more like her mother than she ever could have imagined.

"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

About the Author:

Julianna Baggott's work has appeared in such publications as The Southern Review, Ms. magazine, Poetry, Best American Poetry 2000, and read on NPR's Talk of the Nation. The nationally bestselling author of The Miss America Family and Girl Talk, as well a book of poems entitled This Country of Mothers, she teaches at Florida State University and lives in Tallahassee with her husband and three children. Visit her website at www.juliannabaggott.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

One month before my father died in the fall of 1999, Church Fiske appeared at my door. I hadn't seen him since the summer my father disappeared with a redheaded bank teller from Walpole when I was fifteen, the summer my mother decided to teach me the art of omission, how to tell the perfect lie, or more accurately, how you can choose the truth -- with a little hard work and concentration -- from the assortment of truths life has to offer. But for me to truly appreciate her art, my mother knew she would first have to give me the bare, naked truth so that I could see how she'd altered it. Like a gangster who has to tell his child he doesn't play violin, that the case is used for concealing a semiautomatic, my mother, Dotty Jablonski, spent the summer of my father's disappearance opening violin cases, showing me her guns.

Of course, Church brought a lot of that summer back to me. We had clumsily lost our virginity together in a backyard pool in Bayonne, New Jersey. But I'd been deconstructing and reconstructing that summer ever since it happened and everything that I'd learned about my mother -- her weepy, fish-stained father and drunken, arsonist mother; her first love, Anthony Pantuliano, from the Bayonne Rendering Plant; the convent school where she almost drowned for the love of a polio-stricken nun; and why she married my father, her passive accomplice. And recently it dawned on me, nearly fifteen years later, that I am more like my mother than even my mother, that I have spent my life trying to live out her sordid life, taking on the various leading roles.

When Church showed up, I was living alone in downtown Manhattan in a tiny two-bedroom apartment with a bathroom so small you'd think you were in an airplane. My life was a disaster. I'd just kicked out a newspaper-found roommate -- a Korean stripper, self-named Kitty Hawk. Half the furniture was missing -- her beanbags and futon. There were big blank spots on the walls where she'd hung old movie-star posters -- Bette Davis and James Dean; she was a kind of fucked-up romantic. I was screwed out of half the rent for two months. I was fast approaching thirty and had just found out that I was pregnant, my bathroom shelf filled with pregnancy test sticks, pink and blue lines shining from behind their plastic-covered windows, all pointing out the obvious. I'd sworn off men, having just gone through a breakup with a married one, Peter Kinney -- who still didn't know he was the father.

It turns out that Juniper Fiske, Church's mother, had called to talk my mother into going to their twenty-fifth reunion at Simmons College in Boston where they'd been roommates their freshman and sophomore years studying nursing before they both got married. Although they both finished up the four-year program eventually, on their own schedules as the wives of Harvard men, they considered themselves, at least as far as reunions went, members of the class in which -- had certain life events not taken place -- they would have graduated together. Juniper had finally kicked the Valium habit and was into tai chi, self-help, and vitamins. My mother declined the invitation for the reunion on the grounds she thought reunions were creepy (Juniper Fiske being a perfect example) -- classmates having turned into themselves in such disturbing folds and twists, one element of their personality taking over until a tattletale becomes a cop; a nerd, a techie millionaire; and a cheerleader, an aerobics instructor.

My mother was comfortably back to the calm routine of life with my father as Dr. and Mrs. Jablonski in Keene, New Hampshire. My father came back, you see, at the end of his summer with the redheaded bank teller, and the three of us never spoke of that summer again, or of redheads, bank tellers, or anything to do with nearby Walpole. Once, when I was nineteen and bent on revealing my family's dysfunction at the urging of an inept nose-tugging therapist, my mother stated flatly, "You never really had a fifteenth summer. It was the summer that never happened." But I have to admit that although my mother never talked about that summer, it was always there between us.

Instead of going to the reunion, she prepared a statement that she mailed to Juniper for her to read to anyone who inquired about her at the roundtables for their year. Juniper called my mother upon receiving the letter. The conversation, according to my mother, went something like this:

"I don't feel comfortable with this," Juniper said.

"With what?" my mother asked.

"You say that you weigh one hundred fifteen pounds and you've never had a gray hair."

"And?"

"Well..." -- Juniper hesitated -- "it isn't true."

"How do you know how much I weigh? We haven't seen each other in ages."

"I can tell in your voice. It's padded. It's a fat voice. Hear my voice? My voice is the voice of someone who weighs one hundred fifteen pounds."

"And I have a gray-haired voice, too? I sound like an old fat witch?"

Juniper went on. "You need to be honest with yourself. I wouldn't be telling all of this to you if I didn't think that our relationship deserved honesty."

"Oh, for the love of God!"

Juniper swerved away from the letter and the reunion and to a safer topic: the kids. It turned out that Church was finally heading to New York and wasn't Lissy still there and wouldn't she help Church out? "He's a bit of a lost soul these days," Juniper said.

"Sure thing," my mother said. "You know, Juniper -- I'd do anything for you. For better or for worse, you're like a sister."

And so it was arranged that Church would come to stay with me, for a while. Although I needed the rent money he'd be dishing out, it was a crazy time for Church to visit. My eyes were ringed with smeary eyeliner. I'd just gone to a yoga class, trying to center myself, but the room was lined with mirrors, and I tangled myself into pretzel contortions that forced me to stare at my bloated face and my widening ass at the same time. I left in tears. In addition to being pregnant and alone, I was feeling old, thirty looming. It had hit me that when my mother was my age, she had a nine-year-old kid, but I was incapable of any sort of normal lasting relationship. I'd started suffering from a recurring nightmare of winning Most Well-Preserved at a reunion of my own, only to find out in true Carrie-horror-prom-night fashion that it's a joke and I look ancient. I stumble around in the dream only able to chat with classmates about my walnut-sized bunions, my recalcitrant bowels, my imaginary husband's prostate, and how the palsied camera angles of these new cop shows make me dizzy. "Who's the cameraman, Katharine Hepburn?" I hear myself saying in this Billy Crystal-impersonating-his-grandfather voice.

When Church knocked, I was in deep: I was wearing a dress from 1987 that had once been sloppily big but now I couldn't zip. I was sorting out the shit Kitty Hawk had left behind -- spiked thigh-high boots and leather tap pants. I wanted to be drunk at noon, had searched the cabinets for liquor, but found only a bottle of peach schnapps. I carried it to the sofa but couldn't drink it. I was, after all, a pregnant woman.

I saw Church's face, distorted by the peephole -- that tiny rich-person's nose grown broad, eyes tightly packed into a pointed forehead -- and I could barely open the door, I was so weak. I scrambled through the ritual of locks and bolts, flung the heavy door open dramatically, and collapsed onto Church's tweed jacket.

"Jesus," he said. "And I thought I was fucked up."

Church was now twenty-eight. He'd been in and out of an assortment of fairly well-to-do colleges. Nothing Ivy League, but the almost-Ivy -- remote, small colleges designed par-ticularly for the well-educated, if-not-extremely-naturally-gifted rich. Bowdoin comes to mind, Colby, Colgate. He'd been a ceramics major because he wanted to get dirty, a philosophy major because he wanted to be allowed to think dirty, a forestry major because he wanted to be one with the dirt, and a pyschology major because he wanted to help people deal with their dirt. But nothing suited him. To understand Church Fiske, you have to understand that he'd never liked being rich, although he came from deep pockets of family money; he was infatuated with the middle class. I hadn't seen him in nearly fifteen years, but we'd talked on the phone every few months, always picking up exactly as we'd left off, flirtatious, smart-ass teenagers. He'd say, "It's all bullshit. It's not real. Ceramics is about function in art, mutually exclusive. And philosophy about look-how-clever-I-am, and forestry run by bitter environmentalists pissed off because they're not rich, and counseling, well, it's the biggest crock of all -- how to fix fragile little wrecks like my mother." And now he had no job, no direction. He'd started the habit of looking for the perfect career way back, wanting to drive the big rigs when he was fourteen. More recently, he'd look at the want ads and circle things like lounge singer, tarot card reader, movie extras -- no pay. He kept saying that he wanted to be in the city to meet real people, to have an authentic experience, snorting, "Whatever that means!"

But there he was, Church in his tweed jacket, his hair rumpled and windblown, his cheeks ruddy, holding his suitcase, and I was relieved to see him.

"Thank God you're here, Church. Everything's turned to shit. The place is a wreck." I scooped up an armful of Kitty's clothes, more of her G-strings and spangled bras and Catholic schoolgirl miniskirts to clear a space on the sofa.

"What's this?" Church said, picking up something so skimpy and lacy that I wasn't really sure if I could identify it.

"Kitty," I said. "My ex-roommate's stuff. I promised to take it down to the Fruit, Cock, Tail Strip Club for her." I sighed. "Jesus, I'm in love with a real dickhead."

"I know. Love is the worst thing of all. It's how life kicks you in the balls." He put his arm around me. "But this guy's not worth it. I can tell. He's a son of a bitch." He didn't know anything about Peter, of course. He was just on autopilot. I certainly wasn't going to tell him I was pregnant. I couldn't believe it myself. "That's why I'm so glad I like women, Lissy. Men are such assholes."

And then Church stood up. "Let me help you. What can I do?" He paused. "Here," he said, picking up Kitty's underthings and overthings, "let me cart these down to the club for you."

I started laughing and then he smiled his Church grin, knowing I'd nailed him. But the truth was, I was in no mood to see Kitty Hawk, and the club was just over on 14th Street, not far. It would give me a chance to throw the extra crap out of his soon-to-be bedroom. I said, "Okay, Church, you asshole, do me a favor and go to a strip club."

He packed the clothes up in a brown paper bag and headed out of the apartment like a proud six-year-old helping his mother with the garbage for the first time. And that's how he met Kitty Hawk and fell in love with her, which eventually led to their short, unstable marriage. Things were at their worst when Church showed up, and I'd thought he'd make it all better. Five hours after he had left for the Fruit, Cock, Tail Strip Club, he showed up again at my door. "And look who I bumped into..." he said, doing a drumroll on the doorjamb and then hitting an air cymbal. "The amazing...Kitty Hawk." He was drunk. She stumbled into the room in spiked heels and a short coat with a fur-lined hood, jabbing him with her elbow, giggling, "She no like me, Churchie-boy. I tell you."

He whispered to me in that loud, drunken whisper, "I think I'm in love!" He pressed one hand to his heart and batted his eyes. "I want to be a hopelessly romantic pervert when I grow up."

I said, "Welcome to adulthood." I felt a surge of nausea -- morning sickness, a misleading term, since it seemed to have a mind of its own, coming and going whenever it pleased. I scrambled out of the room to dry-heave over the toilet.


The summer my father had an affair with the redheaded bank teller, 1985, my parents had been married for nearly sixteen years. We lived in a nice Colonial house on Pako Avenue in Keene, New Hampshire. They'd met at Guy and Juniper Fiske's wedding on Cape Cod. My mother doesn't dance and my father had lost a leg early in the Vietnam War, and so they met at the punch bowl. They knew right from their very first encounter that they were going to get married. My mother strolled out of the reception on my father's arm, and just before Juniper drove off with Guy in his father's antique roadster, she thanked Juniper, as if my father were a large, overly lavish party favor. My parents were married two weeks later by a justice of the peace. She'd grown up the daughter of a fish-shop owner in Bayonne, a quick ride from New York City. She'd told me that my grandfather died of a heart attack shortly before their wedding and my grandmother died shortly thereafter from what, in retrospect, seemed to be a suspiciously generic and vague illness. She said she'd already begun to feel like an old maid. It was 1969. My father was twenty-four and she was twenty, ten years younger than I am now.

I'm sure there were some snags in the marriage, but at fifteen I wasn't aware of them. I can recall only that my mother didn't like the way my father whistled while washing his hands in the bathroom and that he complained her perfume was asphyxiating. Aside from these minor annoyances, they seemed happy. I remember seeing them kiss under mistletoe. They linked arms when out walking in town. But I didn't know anything, really, about my mother then.

It was all a surprise to me, beginning that one night when I stumbled from bed, a gawky fifteen-year-old girl (back when gawky was just on the verge of being sexy, but not quite yet) and found my mother in the kitchen, wearing a black bathing suit, standing in the glow of the refrigerator light. She was bent over, leaning in, her head slightly lifted to cool her neck. I can still see her lit up in the refrigerator in that pose, like an immodest starlet on an otherwise dark stage. She was thirty-five and buxom and had full red lips and slightly buck teeth. She'd been weighing her food for a month or so on a little Weight Watchers scale, eager to take off some of her extra padding, but I was jealous of the padding, the soft breasts and full rump. I was all limbs and had already spent many hours that summer eating peanut butter straight from the jar with a spoon, trying not to move, so I could put on some weight, willing it to just the right places, with no luck.

I was used to my mother, on her sleepless nights, rousing me from bed -- purposefully dropped toilet seats, ignored kettle whistles -- for "girl talk," as she put it. It was a term that by the time I got to college with my newfound feminism, I would find insulting, demeaning. I'd see it as a generational distinction between us. I remember constantly reminding her that the women who worked for my father were adults, that calling them girls made them sound like their mothers dressed them every morning in little lacy dresses, shiny Mary Jane shoes, their hair in Bopeep curls...

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Descripción SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2002. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.Lissy Jablonski was fifteen during the summer of 1985. That was the summer her father, a soft-spoken gynecologist, up and left her mother for a redheaded bank teller. The same summer Lissy and her mother disappeared from their quiet New Hampshire lives to have an adventure of their own amid a cast of unlikely characters, including a Valium-addicted ex-debutante and a suspected mobster. The summer the reliably comforting girl talks with her mother began to reveal startling secrets. Now an almost-thirty-year-old advertising executive in Manhattan, faced with her father s imminent death and newly pregnant by her married ex-lover, an unmoored Lissy finds herself looking back across the years. Contending with her affections for an old flame and his doomed marriage to a Korean stripper named Kitty Hawk, as well as the tangible legacies of that unmentionable summer with her mother, she realizes that she has become more like her mother than she ever could have imagined. Nº de ref. de la librería AAV9780743400831

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Descripción SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2002. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Lissy Jablonski was fifteen during the summer of 1985. That was the summer her father, a soft-spoken gynecologist, up and left her mother for a redheaded bank teller. The same summer Lissy and her mother disappeared from their quiet New Hampshire lives to have an adventure of their own amid a cast of unlikely characters, including a Valium-addicted ex-debutante and a suspected mobster. The summer the reliably comforting girl talks with her mother began to reveal startling secrets. Now an almost-thirty-year-old advertising executive in Manhattan, faced with her father s imminent death and newly pregnant by her married ex-lover, an unmoored Lissy finds herself looking back across the years. Contending with her affections for an old flame and his doomed marriage to a Korean stripper named Kitty Hawk, as well as the tangible legacies of that unmentionable summer with her mother, she realizes that she has become more like her mother than she ever could have imagined. Nº de ref. de la librería AAV9780743400831

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