Excerpt from Paradise, Nevada by Dario Diofebi, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Paradise, Nevada

by Dario Diofebi

Paradise, Nevada by Dario Diofebi X
Paradise, Nevada by Dario Diofebi
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    Apr 2021, 512 pages


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Grace Graham-Taylor
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Paradise, Nevada

Two weeks before Thanksgiving, Ray had arrived in Marin County at night. Having spent the cab ride home looking at his phone to discourage the driver from talking to him, and having had to wrestle his father for control of the heavier, more wobbly-wheeled bag on the way inside (so that "Seriously dad, let me do it" had been his first words to him), he'd had no time to gradually reacquaint himself with his childhood town, neighborhood, and house. At the periphery of his vision, familiar shapes gave in quietly to the sameness of the night. But as soon as he was inside, the yellow glow of the low-energy light bulbs on the cherrywood bookshelves awakened him to his obvious mistake: he was home.

It took Ray a few days to readjust to the place where his precocious talents had been first noticed and nurtured. In the quiet jazz suffusing the rooms he knew so well, he could still hear the whispered expectations for his future his parents had gone to extreme pedagogical lengths to hide. It was in the living room, where they had insisted on throwing him house-parties and, worse yet, surprise parties with the other, non-mathematically-gifted children. It was in the kitchen, where he had been recruited in all manners of commis activities by his French cuisine enthusiast mother ever since he had been tall enough to reach the countertop, drawing him away from his desk and his calculus. It was in his parents' bedroom, where secret pillow-talk about Ray's limitless potential must have taken place for years. The secrecy, Ray knew, was some hippyish hokum meant to alleviate the pressure and allow him to organically develop his dispositions. But behind the smiles and the encouragements to "go out and have some fun," Ray never doubted for a second the narrative his parents had always wanted from him. For him.

At the root of his problems with the house was a familiar and much more tangible contrast: the Jacksons' was a house of Letters. It was, in fact, in response to this axiom, transparent and irrefutable for anybody who traversed their labyrinthically bookshelved corridors, that young Ray had derived his own clear-cut identity as a man of Numbers. In the late 80s, only a few years before his birth, Howard and Victoria Jackson had opened the Satis House Bookshop in San Rafael, a so- called little independent hideaway for the literarily inclined. Throughout Ray's childhood, the bookstore had been the object of his parents' endless profusions of love and endeavors, and had hosted readings by some of the most celebrated writers of the time. Ray himself, cute and well-behaved, had soon been a welcome guest at both the readings and the post-reading dinners with this or that novelist, which accounted for the wealth of unnecessary synonyms and flowery phrases that still clogged his mental storage centers. And now that he was back, and corridors were once again something you traversed, and cutting a potato was called batonnet-ing or allumette-ing (two different things), and decisions were made because of how they felt, regardless of their optimality, Ray found himself utterly incapable of the very rational thinking that the future of his poker career demanded.

The days leading up to Thanksgiving became an elaborate game of domestic chess. Ray's king, who only wanted to castle short and mind his own business in a corner, was assailed by opposing forces coming from both flanks. His father, a short, thin, gray-haired man whose face had developed the puffiness of old age and whose eyes had narrowed to small horizontal slits, haunted both floors of the house like a slow-moving, legally blind ghost. He had a way of walking into whatever room Ray was in, hands joined against his lower back, like a Parisian flaneur (his words), that always managed to drive Ray up the cherrywood-paneled wall: he had no reason to come in and made no attempt to hide the fact, he just walked in and sort of loitered. It would have been quite better, honestly, if his father had started chopping wood right there in the room—something Ray pointed out with the disgruntled "WHAT?" that opened most of their conversations throughout the two weeks.

Excerpted from Paradise, Nevada by Dario Diofebi. Copyright © 2021 by Dario Diofebi. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury USA. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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