Excerpt from Alone With You by Marisa Silver, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Alone With You


by Marisa Silver

Alone With You
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2010, 164 pages
    Apr 2011, 176 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
BJ Nathan Hegedus

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Print Excerpt

Below is the complete text of "Temporary"....


Vivian and Shelly lived in downtown Los Angeles, in an industrial space that belonged, nominally, to a ribbon factory whose warehouse was attached. Shelly discovered it one night when the band she belonged to had played at an impromptu concert there. When the evening was over and everyone had cleared out, Shelly and a man she’d met that evening stayed on. The man left soon afterward, but Shelly did not. She worked out an arrangement with the owner of the ribbon factory: the rent would be paid in cash, and if Shelly was discovered by the housing authorities, the owner would claim that she was a squatter.

Vivian met Shelly at the temp agency where they both applied for work. She had just finished two years of community college in Oklahoma and moved to L.A. Shelly offered her a small room in return for half the rent. She couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t be thrown out in a week or a month, but it was cheaper than the motel where Vivian had been staying, where she had to get out of bed two or three times a night to check the lock on the door whenever a drunken couple pin-balling past caused it to rattle in a way that unnerved her. At Shelly’s place, the thumps and grinds of machinery could be heard through the walls, but only during the day. In addition to Vivian’s room, there was a doorless bathroom and a large open space. A rolling garage door served as the only window. You pulled on a chain and by some miracle of simple machinery the metal door ratcheted open with a satisfying flourish that appealed to Shelly’s sense of drama.

Vivian had never met a girl like Shelly, who left her money lying around on tables and liked to throw blindfold dinner parties. Vivian had to learn not to compliment Shelly’s clothes or jewelry because Shelly had a habit of taking off whatever it was that Vivian liked and giving it to her. Vivian also learned to be blasé about coming out of her room in the morning to discover Shelly sleeping with a man they had met the evening before—or a woman. Vivian felt a little thrill at being able to carry off such sophisticated nonchalance, and she admired the way Shelly slithered through her days and nights, shedding the most outrageous experiences as if they were simply the air she passed through. Shelly had negligible professional skills and wavering incentive, and only Vivian managed to get a temp placement—doing clerical work at an adoption agency. Still, Shelly managed to come home with bags full of mangoes and coconuts, and sometimes they drank margaritas and grilled steak on the loading dock outside the garage door, using Vivian’s George Foreman. Shelly’s last name was vaguely familiar to Vivian, as if she had seen it on packages at the grocery store, or maybe on television ads for insurance.

But she didn’t ask, because she didn’t want to appear ignorant, and because her parents had taught her that it was impolite to talk about money.

At the adoption agency, Vivian was put to work at a computer in a small, windowless room where office supplies were kept; the walls were lined with bales of toilet paper and paper towels, industrial-sized bags of coffee and nondairy creamer. Vivian’s job was to transcribe the interviews recorded with prospective parents. These interviews were poorly taped, and Vivian spent her days winding the tape recorder back and forth in order to see if a husband had said that he loved children or loathed them, or if a wife had called herself infertile or infantile. Vivian herself was adopted—this was the single piece of information that had gotten her the job, as she typed only sixty words a minute and didn’t know how to make a spreadsheet. Her adoptive parents were nice people. Until the recent recession put him out of business, her father had run a small jewelry store in a mall that catered mostly to young couples buying engagement rings and girls celebrating their quinceañeras. Her mother had worked as a secretary in a doctor’s office. They were older than most parents and had required little of Vivian when she was growing up. They had always treated her with a kind of cautious respect that she didn’t see many other parents accord their children. By the time she was ten, her father was sixty. At back-to-school nights, her parents stood by themselves while the younger parents exerted a kind of hysterical energy toward one another. “Oh, you’re Alison’s mother!” they’d say, as though Alison, with her accomplishments, bestowed a reflected glory on the parents who’d made her. No one came up to Vivian’s parents to remark on Vivian, but this was understandable. Vivian was a “below-the-radar kind of girl,” as her adviser had written on one midterm evaluation. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, the adviser had added; not everyone could be a leader.

Excerpted from Alone With You by Marisa Silver. Copyright © 2010 by Marisa Silver. Excerpted by permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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