Excerpt from Envy by Kathryn Harrison, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Novel

by Kathryn Harrison

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  • First Published:
    Jul 2005, 320 pages
    Jul 2006, 320 pages

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He tries to picture the women's workaday selves: quieter, with paler lips, flatter hair. Still, on the whole they're well preserved, while the men by their sides look worn and rumpled. Receding hairlines have nowhere else to go; love handles have grown too big to take hold of.

"Hey!" someone says, and Will turns around to a face he remembers from his freshman dorm. "David Snader!" the face bellows to identify itself. With his big, hot hand, David pulls Will into a crushing hug. "Where you been!" he says, as though he'd lost track of Will hours rather than decades ago.

"Hey!" Will pulls out of the sweaty and, it would appear, drunken embrace.

"Are you here alone?" David asks him. He blots his forehead with a handkerchief.

Will nods. "Carole—my wife—she wasn't up for a long weekend of nostalgia with people she's never met before."

"Same here. Same here." David gives Will a companionable punch in the arm. "Where's Mitch?" he asks, and Will shrugs.

"Didn't make it. At least not as far as I know."

"Oh yeah?" David squints. "You guys not in touch or something?"

"Not at the moment."

"Well." He punches Will's arm again. "Guess that makes sense. All the travel. Media. Price of fame."

Will produces the rueful smile he hopes will convey that his estrangement from his famous twin is no big deal. Unfortunate, of course, but nothing hurtful or embarrassing. He's about to ask David about his wife and whether or not they have children, when David lurches off into the crowd. Will fills his cheeks with air, blows it out in a gust. David Snader is the fifth person in one hour to have approached him to ask not about Will or Will's work, his family, but about his brother, whose career as a long-distance swimmer has given Mitch a name as recognizable as that of, say, Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods. Not that any of these alumni were his friends. Will and David hadn't even liked each other. But still.

He goes to the bar for a glass of red wine. If he's going to drink, he might as well rinse a little cholesterol out of his arteries. He's just replacing his wallet in the inside breast pocket of his blazer when he looks up to see someone else bearing down on him, Sue Shimakawa, with whom he'd shared an exam-week tryst, if that's the right word for abbreviated coitus in the musty, rarely penetrated stacks of the undergraduate library. Punch-drunk from studying chemistry for a few hundred hours, on a dare Will had asked Sue to have sex with him, prepared for a slap, or for her badmouthing him later or laughing at him in the moment, anything but what he got: her accepting his invitation with a sort of gung-ho enthusiasm. She had one of those bodies Will thinks of as typically Asian: compact, androgynous, and smooth-skinned, with pubic hair that was absolutely straight instead of curly, the surprise of this discovery—along with the panic induced by having intercourse in a potentially public place—enough to eclipse other, more inclusive observations.

"Will, Will, Will," Sue sings at him. "I was hoping to see you!" She has a man in tow, a sandy-haired giant at least a foot and a half taller than she. "Meet Rob. We have five kids, if you can believe it! Five!"

Excerpted from Envy by Kathryn Harrison Copyright © 2005 by Kathryn Harrison. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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