Excerpt from The Blizzard Party by Jack Livings, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Blizzard Party

by Jack Livings

The Blizzard Party by Jack Livings X
The Blizzard Party by Jack Livings
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  • Published:
    Feb 2021, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

1.

I am Hazel Saltwater, daughter of Erwin and Sarah Saltwater, a citizen of the borough of Manhattan, proprietor, researcher, part-time recluse, widow, fury, known to the waiters at Wavy Grain Bistro (formerly the Cosmic Diner) as Ms. Patel, known to the co-op board at the Apelles as a compliant and reliable neighbor, among resident children of same known to be a Halloween enthusiast, known to my dry cleaner Tio as a generous December tipper, to my acquaintances a person of pleasant demeanor, to my lenders an exemplary credit risk, to my friends a mystic, a crazy woman, an apopheniac, a rationalist, an open wound.

It is a gray morning. The men working on the building across the street have arrived with their coffee in paper cups and egg sandwiches wrapped in foil. They've staked out the stoop, draping themselves variously over the railing, across the steps, boots on balustrades, shooting the shit, their voices pinwheeling like kids in a schoolyard. The contractor's big Ford pickup, outfitted with racks and rails, drooping lengths of PVC pipe, assorted proofs of masculinity and patriotism affixed to the window, idles at the curb. They're in and out. The doors squeak open, slam shut. It is 31.7 degrees Fahrenheit according to the website upon which I rely for semi-accurate readings, a hub formerly owned and operated by the University of Michigan and in accordance with the rules of academio-subversive nomenclature dubbed the Weather Underground back in the dork days of Telnet. The site was later purchased by the Weather Channel, an acquisition that precipitated the degradation of the Underground's predictive qualities. These days storms blow in without warning, prophesied rain never falls, it's hot when it's supposed to be cold, snowing when it's supposed to be hailing, tsunamis never show, hurricanes lose focus and drift out to sea. My handheld device, which came preset to display the Edenic atmospheric conditions over the city-state of Cupertino, the Holy See of our sparkling new aluminum universe, is equally worthless at making predictions. However, though it's as useless as a crystal ball, the Underground is invaluable for historical readings.

I am alone, and the first to admit that I have not handled well the loss of my husband. I haunt the internet, as do we all, though perhaps I leave behind, pixelated, more of myself than most. Occasionally I chat with strangers on sites where I expose my body to the blue light of the screen, the empty cyclopean eye that so coolly observes whatever I can throw at it. The chats take a familiar, comforting route, along the lines of, Hey bb. Hey bb. Show tits? And I do. I am aware of government and extra-governmental surveillance, the great electronic blanket that shields and suffocates, and I do like to imagine an NSA agent on his or her break scrolling over to my feed and, while popping peanuts somewhere deep within the recesses of that shiny black rectangle in Maryland, possibly flipping through NBA trade rumors on a handheld, one eye on the monitor, one on Kevin Durant's latest tweet, lingering just for a moment, just to see how far I'll go. The thought strikes me like a depth charge. Here's how far I'll go. How about this? And this? Do you see this?

In the years after my husband's disappearance, I froze up a little. I wouldn't say I've ossified. I don't leave the building much, though I'm not, strictly speaking, afraid of anything outside, not the way my father was. This is the same apartment where I grew up, which might be a signal that even before Vikram disappeared I was a creature of habit. New York, so fanatically public, is the world's best place to hide. If I so choose, I may live unseen. But that's not what twists my lemon. I want to be seen, to be observed, but without the knowledge that I am being observed. Like the lady said, I want to be alone. By which I'm pretty sure she meant, Think of Me Always.

Anonymous friend, please watch and see how far I'll go.

Excerpted from The Blizzard Party by Jack Livings. Copyright © 2021 by Jack Livings. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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