Excerpt from Niagra Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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

Niagra Falls All Over Again

by Elizabeth McCracken

Niagra Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken X
Niagra Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2001, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2002, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Dearly Beloved

This story --- like most of the stories in the history of the world --- begins far away from Des Moines, Iowa.

It starts with two men --- one thin, one fat --- dressed in tuxedos, walking down a black-and-white street arm-in-arm. The fat man keeps stumbling. At one point he falls and manages to land on his high silk hat. The fat man will always land on his hat, and the thin man will always help him up, whack him over the head, and replace it.

"I don't want to do this, Professor," the fat man pleads in a childish voice.

"You'll be fine," says the thin man, who, befitting his name, wears a mortarboard instead of a top hat. He drags the fat man up a set of stairs into a white church and through the flung-back doors and down the aisle to a sudden wedding march. Though both men are rotten marchers, they make it to the altar, where a minister opens a Bible in a chiding way: there's no good reason to be late to your own wedding, even if your bride is a pony. Which she is, a chubby, swaybacked roan pony whose hindquarters keep shifting --- she's not thrilled about the match either. In this world, everyone wears a hat: the pony's is straw, trimmed with a net veil thrown over her shoulders. The fat man sneaks sugar cubes to his intended. The pony has a history of bolting.

"We are gathered," intones the justice of the peace, which is when the fat man howls, "Oh my fucking God!"

The cameras --- there are cameras here, and a boom mike, and a director who hates the pony, and a script girl and a prop guy and dollies and grips --- stop rolling.

"What is it?" the director asks.

"That fucking pony!" the fat man says. "That fucking pony bit me!"

"Okay, that's it," the director says, but he laughs. "We need a new pony."

"Jesus Christ." The fat man is trying to shake the ache out of his hand, but he's milking it. "Get me a better-looking one this time, will you? I want a Shetland. I'm sorry, sweetheart," he says to the pony, "but a pony like you, and a guy like me --- take my word for it. I'm saving you a lot of heartache down the road."

The director shrugs, but it's 1946, and the fat man is famous. He can hire and fire any pony he wants. He's already walking off the set, pulling off his white gloves, tossing his high silk hat at the wardrobe girl, who carries a torch for him. Everyone on the set carries a torch for him; either he doesn't care or doesn't notice. "Come on," he tells the thin man. "I'm hungry."

The thin man follows. (When the cameras stop, the thin man always follows.) "Don't insult the pony. The pony is high-strung. You try being a pony in this town."

"That fucking pony," the fat man says gravely.

"Oh, Rocky. We both know the pony only wants to make you happy," says the thin man, the other man, the straight man: me.

Here's what I think: when you're born, you're assigned a brain like you're assigned a desk, a nice desk, with plenty of pigeonholes and drawers and secret compartments. At the start, it's empty, and then you spend your life filling it up. You're the only one who understands the filing system, you amass some clutter, sure, but somehow it works: you're asked for the capital of Oregon, and you say Salem; you want to remember your first grade teacher's name, and there it is, Miss Fox. Then suddenly you're old, and though everything's still in your brain, it's crammed so tight that when you try to remember the name of the guy who does the upkeep on your lawn, your first childhood crush comes fluttering out, or the persistent smell of tomato soup in a certain Des Moines neighborhood.

Or you try to recall your wedding day, and you remember a fat man. Or the birth of your first kid, and you remember a fat man. You loved your wife, who died decades ago; you love your kids, who you see once a week. But facts are facts: every time you try to remember anything, the fat man comes strolling into your brain, his hands in his pockets, whiskey on his breath.

Excerpted from Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken Copyright 2001 by Elizabeth McCracken. Excerpted by permission of Dell, 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.

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!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Let It Bang
    Let It Bang
    by RJ Young
    Every interracial love story is an exercise in complications. R.J. Young and Lizzie Stafford's ...
  • Book Jacket: A Spark of Light
    A Spark of Light
    by Jodi Picoult
    The central premise of A Spark of Light involves a gunman holding hostages within the confines of a ...
  • Book Jacket: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    by Hank Green
    As one half of the extremely popular YouTube duo "Vlogbrothers" (the other half being his brother ...
  • Book Jacket: Waiting for Eden
    Waiting for Eden
    by Elliot Ackerman
    Elliot Ackerman's latest novel, Waiting for Eden, follows Marine Eden Malcom as his death ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Unsheltered
by Barbara Kingsolver

A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Ladder to the Sky
    by John Boyne

    A seductive, unputdownable psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Paris Echo
    by Sebastian Faulks

    A story of resistance, complicity, and an unlikely, transformative friendship.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Severance

Severance by Ling Ma

An offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire that is featured on more than twenty 2018 "Must Read" lists!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Ain't O U T F L S

and be entered to win..

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.