Excerpt from The Sleeping Father by Matthew Sharpe, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Sleeping Father

By Matthew Sharpe

The Sleeping Father
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  • Paperback: Oct 2003,
    290 pages.

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"Paul Robeson was a great black American football player, actor, singer, orator, and political activist who, throughout his adult life, enjoyed sexual relations with many women, including many white women. This is a type of activity he shared in common with that other great prominent African-American political figure, Martin Luther King, Jr., though I don't think it's fair that we speak of only African-American political figures who were cockswains—I mean, uh, yeah that's not a curseword—cockswains, because a lot of white men did it too, like Thomas Jefferson. Plus Robeson had a high degree of sophistication and athletic physique which women would definitely like, which is only my opinion.

"Another point I would like to point out about Paul Robeson is his Communism. Robeson was admirer and friend to the great Russian Revolutionary Leon Trotsky. After a falling out with Vladimir Lenin, Trotsky fled the Soviet Union and took up residence in Princeton, New Jersey, Paul Robeson's hometown. One summer day, while Trotsky was bathing in his wooded back yard in Princeton, New Jersey, Richard Nixon, who was then the head of the House un-American Activities Committee, snuck up behind Trotsky and, just when Trotsky was giving himself a nice shampoo, Nixon forcefully inserted an ice pick into the back of Trotsky's brain."

Chris Schwartz paused. He was troubled by the violent death of Trotsky and had to quell the turmoil inside himself in order to continue his speech.

"When Robeson heard of Trotsky's death, he suddenly converted to Judaism, in solidarity with his martyred hero. At this time in American history, Congress considered all Jews to be Communists. They were wrong. Only some Jews were Communists: the smart ones. Like Paul Robeson, who cherished freedom and decency and respect for mankind and the dignity and decency of the common man."

Chris Schwartz was experiencing a deep kind of truth that transcended mere facts. Frank Dial was smirking. Richard Stone was restrained from murdering Chris Schwartz with his hands and teeth only by the force of social custom.

"Paul Robeson, though never allowed to set foot on American soil after his conversion, toured the world giving concerts. No matter what song he was singing—a Negro spiritual, a European peasant song, an opera, a child's nursery rhyme—he always changed the lyrics to include diatribes against America as well as biographical facts about Leon Trotsky.

"Recently, Ebony magazine honored Paul Robeson by naming him one of the ten greatest African-Americans of all time. Not long after, the Jewish Daily Forward put Robeson on its all-time top-ten list of American Jews. Regrettably, Leon Trotsky's name was absent from both lists.

"In conclusion, Paul Robeson was the greatest man who ever lived. We should all try to be more like him. Now I will play ‘Serve the Servants,' by Nirvana, a song Paul Robeson would have sung about Leon Trotsky if he were alive today. Thank you."

At the end of "Serve the Servants," a few people clapped faintly. Frank Dial made a teetering gesture with his right hand that meant something along the lines of comme çi, comme ça. Inside the mind of Richard Stone, a place inaccessible to Communism or God, violent thoughts gathered and swarmed.



5.

Bernard Schwartz had been a publicist and a corporate speech writer but now worked at home writing, editing, and producing high-quality newsletters for professional organizations as well as unprofessional organizations. He'd made the transition to the home office shortly before the break-up of his marriage. The words low overhead, toward the end of the marriage, produced a pain in the heart of the person who had then been called Lila Schwartz, a person who, as such, no longer existed. Bernie's job change killed the marriage was the conventional wisdom of the two people who had been the marriage's most direct participants. To say Bernie's job change killed the marriage was soothingly irrefutable. Bernie's job change killed the marriage held in abeyance densely clustered groups of painful memories, inchoate feelings, the disappointments of personality and love, the unrelenting dullness and shallowness of deep intimacy, a shallow sea stretching to the horizon in every direction. Bernie's job change killed the marriage was a tame little restaurant watercolor of that sea, each dot of white paint standing in for the legendary tablespoonful of water it takes to drown a full-grown adult.

From The Sleeping Father by Matthew Sharpe - pages 3 to 16 and 22-30. Copyright Matthew Sharpe 2004. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Soft Skull Press.

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