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320 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1995
“It was a feat Daddy never got to perform, but on nights when he spread the receipts out chronologically, he made it clear to my sister and me that every day some suit-wearing, Republican sonofabitch (his term) weaseled a working man out of an extra three dollars for lack of a receipt. He would not be caught short. These notorious Republicans were the bogeymen of my childhood. When I asked him to define one (I think it was during the Kennedy-Nixon debate), Daddy said a Republican was somebody who couldn’t enjoy eating unless he knew somebody else was hungry, which I took to be gospel for longer than I care to admit. Maybe the only thing worse than being a Republican was being a scab.”
“Of course, I am famous for running in the middle of a spanking. It makes me proud that Daddy used to run too. I always figured only a dumbass would just stand still and take it.”
"Something in me had died when Grandma had, and while I didn't miss her one iota, I keenly felt the loss of my own trust in the world's order."
"The opera also tended to get Mother to hauling out art books. I can still see them stacked on the plywood next to her Flintstone jelly jar of vodka, the gold names in square letters on the big leather spines: Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne. (The pictures themselves were being seared into my head with all the intensity of childhood. When I stubmled on the actual paintings years later in museums, i often lapsed into that feeling that you get when stepping in your old grade school, of being tiny again in a huge and uncontrollable world--and yet the low-slung water fountains tell you that you're a giant now, Van Gogh's 'Bedroom at Arles,' when I stood before it at eighteen, seemed ridiculously small, yet intensely familiar.)"
"For the first time, I felt the power of my family's strangeness gave us over the neighbors. Those other grown-ups were scared. Not only of my parents but of me. My wildness scared them. Plus they guessed that I'd moved through houses darker than theirs. All my life I'd wanted to belong to their families, to draw my lunch bag from the simple light and order of their defrosted refrigerators."
"But it was more than that. Something about the Legion clarified who I was, made me solid inside, like when you twist the bincoular lens to the perfect depth and the figure you're looking at gets definite. Maybe I just like holding a place in such a male realm."