Excerpt from The Half-Life by Jonathan Raymond, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Half-Life

by Jonathan Raymond

The Half-Life by Jonathan Raymond
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2004, 355 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2005, 384 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"It's the Cookie's job to improvise," he said. "Don't forget that, boy."

"Yes, sir," Cookie whispered.

The fire hissed and wheezed and Cookie and his commanding officer sat there watching it a while longer. The commander stared into the flames with glassy, exhausted eyes, and finally lifted himself up as well, and shambled into the trees.

Cookie remained by the fire. A log crumbled and fell to the red cinders, sending sparks toward the sky in a sparkling plume. He rubbed the stubble of his neck and cheek and jawline in a slow, languorous pattern. He had drawn first-patrol duty that night, which meant he would soon be circling the camp, protecting the men from whatever harm might come their way. Perhaps, he hoped, he might turn up some more food on the watch. Something small, like radishes or carrots, or a nest of quail eggs. Perhaps a well-baked brisket.

Cookie sighed and tightened his bootstraps. Out in the darkness, he heard a rustling of leaves, which he hoped was only a muskrat, or some wayward, nocturnal bird.

An hour later, after cleaning the stew pot and pitching the tents and avoiding an argument about the proper way to tie a Cincinnati bowtie using a length of rope no longer than a foot, Cookie crept toward the edge of the camp to begin his watch. The rows of tents glowed in the moonlight like a range of tiny, box-shaped mountains, the shadows of the men folding along the planes of the canvas as they moved about, illuminated by kerosene lamps and wax candles.

Cookie carried a wicker basket over his shoulder and wandered the forest, lifting the skirts of spreading ferns and scraping the white shingles of meringue-like fungus from the trunks of trees. He found a cluster of wide mushroom caps fanned with gills in the root system of a massive cedar, and a writhing crowd of potato bugs under a rotten log, their armored bodies curling into tight balls when they were touched by the air.

Some dogs remained among the company, but to eat them would certainly panic the men.

On his way from one side of the camp to the other he walked alongside the edge of a cliff, where a panoramic view of the forest stretched out in a patchwork of black masses. The clouds had parted to let down the milky light of a full moon, revealing rows of mountains receding in lighter and lighter waves, pressing against the distant skyline like a saw blade. At the base of the cliff was a creek, which passed by a marshy expanse full of tall grass and pussy willow, softened under the nacreous lamplight of the stars.

As Cookie stood there awhile, and time moved a little, the severity of his thoughts bundled into a kind of majestic doom, and oddly enough he began to feel a bit better than before. His longing for safety and acceptance transformed into a vague resolution, and his thoughts gradually fell into a new, more optimistic order. For no particular reason the men began to seem just fine to Cookie, quite fine, and small in comparison to the grandeur of things like the mountains and the moon. The secret language they spoke did not bother him. The waterfalls, and snowy ridges, and Indian populations ceased to pose a threat. He trusted the men and himself to move through each day's tests with stern resolve. They were his men, after all. They had embarked on this journey together.

Cookie lingered on the edge of the cliff, taking heart in the reasonable thought that Oregon, like any other country, was created to bear the fruits and meat of man's nourishment. Soon there would be settlers and farmers and women and children here, who in turn would need schools and churches and stores to shop in, and thus more men and women and children to come join them. Among those people he would surely find a place. He imagined, as he sometimes did, that history emanated from some central spot, Paris perhaps, or London, and arrived to distant regions in ever weaker pulsations, and that perhaps he had beaten it here, and could prepare for it this time.

From The Half-Life by Jonathan Raymond, Chapter 1, pages 1-17. Copyright 2004 by Jonathan Raymond. All rights reserved. This excerpt is reproduced with the permission of the publisher, Bloomsbury. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Castle of Water
    Castle of Water
    by Dane Huckelbridge
    When a whopping 24 out of 27 readers give a book 4 or 5 stars, you know you have a winner on your ...
  • Book Jacket: Havana
    Havana
    by Mark Kurlansky
    History with flavor...culture with spice...language with gusto...it would be hard to find a better ...
  • Book Jacket: Temporary People
    Temporary People
    by Deepak Unnikrishnan
    In this powerful and innovative collection of 28 short stories, Deepak Unnikrishnan presents a ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Manderley Forever
    by Tatiana de Rosnay

    Bestselling author Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Information is the currency of democracy

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -