Excerpt from Spectacular Happiness by Peter D. Kramer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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

Spectacular Happiness

by Peter D. Kramer

Spectacular Happiness
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2001, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2002, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt



When I phoned, Sukey picked up on the first ring. Is that you? she said. I just saw your boy on television.

Me, too, I said. How did he seem?

You at sixteen.

Did he look thin?

Not a bit of it. Your spitting image. Wouldn't have surprised me if he'd jumped off the screen and tried to shanghai me up to the attic.

Sukey was speaking my mind. I have always considered your resemblance to me uncanny. I once heard on the radio -- I caught only the end of the story but I believe I have it right -- that a child who looks decidedly like a given family member may resemble that relative in talents or temperament, that external appearance provides a fair sampling of the ways the genes express themselves. Overidentification was a word the court psychologist used in the custody evaluation; she said I exaggerate what you and I have in common.

That remark caused me much soul-searching. But on seeing you again, I find my opinion is unchanged. You do have my manner. The shyness, the hesitancy, those are me. Sukey is right, I was wiry as a youngster.

I never shanghaied anyone. That was a little joke. It was Sukey who dragged me to the attic. I will write about that incident in time. I will set down everything if there is time.

Shanghaiing is a concern, I said, believing Sukey would know what I meant. Now that you have been located, you may be in danger. You are in Milwaukee, the reporter indicated. Living in a neighborhood of substantial houses, judging from the background you were shot against. Even in this era of ubiquitous trophy homes, how many such neighborhoods can there be in Milwaukee? I suppose you will be safe while the press keeps an eye on you. But when their attention flags?

Sukey and I talked on about how it was to see you, how a thirty-second video clip enriches and impoverishes the imagination. I wanted the conversation to flow naturally, without rapid changes in topic. After a couple of minutes, I declared myself. I said: Sukey, I need to ask a favor. I'm hemmed in here, by cops and reporters and rubberneckers. I wonder if you could bring by a few bags of groceries.

That is the code we had arranged. If I wanted to sign on to Sukey's next plan, the plan for me to appear in public, I was to ask for groceries.

Sukey suspects the phone is tapped and the cottage is bugged. For important communication, we use key words. Repair means to install explosives. Astonish indicates a project has come to fruition. When a house has been blown, I may phone Sukey and mention that I find this or that news item astonishing. Groceries means a new phase of the Movement.

Sukey said, I imagined you might need groceries. Is that all? Do you want company? I can bring round some friends.

No need to involve others, I told Sukey.

She had in mind a media event, I suspected, a parade of well-wishers to give visual confirmation to the claim that I am a regular guy. I have resisted the temptation to engage in conventional publicity. I believe our success to date is due to our invisibility. To what the old anarchists called propagande par le fait. Letting the explosions speak for themselves. Sukey has said that in the end human faces are always needed, faces and words. She tends to be right. I hope she is right now, that if I break my silence, there is a chance of keeping you safe, even bringing you home. Safe home, most desired of endings.


By home, I mean the cottage where you spent your early years. I believe you found it cozy. I did, and do still. But a person can feel exposed on the bayfront.

Your mother never adjusted. She complained of the freight-train sounds of the north wind on winter mornings and the stink of rotting shellfish at ebb tide on summer afternoons. Sometimes I think she left the marriage because she could not bear to live on this sandbank, and she could not bear to ask me to live anywhere else. I would have moved, of course, would have done anything for her and you.

Copyright © 2001 by Peter D. Kramer

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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...
  • Book Jacket: When Breath Becomes Air
    When Breath Becomes Air
    by Paul Kalanithi
    When Breath Becomes Air is the autobiography of Paul Kalanithi, written in the time period between ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good and not quite all the time

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

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

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.