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by Donald E. Westlake
Description: Daniel Blake, whose first novel debuted in the New York Times bestseller list for two weeks, sought refuge in a small state-supported college as an English instructor when he failed to publish his subsequent novels. One year, he told himself. One year of teaching and saving his salary, and he would go back to New York and write. His plan seemed straightforward enough. However, Blake did not count on life happening to him. He met Ann, the new gym teacher, and they lived together and established a cozy and predictable life. Lulled by the sense of security and safety inherent in such a domestic setting, and kept busy by his Freshman English and writing classes, Blake's thoughts for the second book gradually became relegated to the back of his mind. Then one day, Janice came, a nymphomaniac, bisexual, and "man hungry" student whose single-mindedness in pursuing Blake gave him the sexual satisfaction and excitement he sought but never found with Ann. Janice shook his growing complacency, and made him question his life's purpose once again. Is he destined to remain in the college, marry Ann, have children, and retire as a teacher? Or is he willing to sacrifice this picture of a well-ordered life for an uncertain future as a writer? Despite its title, Man Hungry is not (just) about sex. While there are enough racy scenes in the story depicting straight and lesbian love, this novel is more about identity, about what it means to be a writer, and the lengths a man might go in pursuit of his dreams. This exciting early novel by Donald E. Westlake was originally published under the pseudonym, Alan Marshall.
eBook Publisher: Wonder Audiobooks, LLC/Wonder eBooks,
eBookwise Release Date: March 2011
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [219 KB]
Reading time: 147-206 min.
"Man Hungry is an unfortunate trite title for what happens to be a rather excellent, quasi-literary novel"--Vintage Sleeze Paperbacks Blog
THREE YEARS AGO
The room was a box, small, square, slant-lit by smoky sunlight angling through the ancient, filthy venetian blinds, stripes of light on the rug, faded, maroon and worn. In the kitchenette, a doorless closet crammed with tiny sink, stove, refrigerator, a hopeful fly buzzed over the pile of dirty dishes in the sink. The Sunday paper, brought three days ago, was scattered throughout the room, on the two sagging armchairs, on the jelly-smeared kitchen table, on the floor. In the corner farthest from the door and nearest to the one window, the cat's dirtbox reeked of ammonia, while the cat herself lay sleeping on the mantelpiece above the bricked-up fireplace.
The girl lay on the sofa-bed, still opened out across the room. It was late summer and hot, and the sheets were wrinkled and thick, trailing from the sides and foot of the bed. The girl had propped two pillows behind her head, and was half-sitting, smoking a cigarette and reading typewritten pages of manuscript. She was nude, her body glistening with sweat, her flat stomach rising and falling slightly as she breathed. An ashtray on the sheet beside her was surrounded by tiny flecks of ash. The girl read slowly, methodically, an expression of gloomy concentration on her face.
The man was seated before the card table on the other side of the room. His portable typewriter was on the card table, and he was typing furiously. To the left of the typewriter was a pile of manuscript, pockmarked with pencil corrections. To the right was a small notebook, lying open. Beyond the typewriter, between typewriter and wall, were stacks of bond paper, carbon paper and onion skin. A chair to the man's left held a half-full beer bottle and an empty, stained coffee cup. As he finished a page, he pulled it from the machine, removed the carbon paper from between good copy and onion skin, placed these two on a chair to his right, drank from the beer bottle, reached for fresh paper, put it in the machine, flipped the top sheet of the pencil-corrected manuscript to the growing pile of discarded paper on the floor, and turned the page of the notebook. Then he typed again, the portable chattering like a monkey.
Behind him, the girl grunted, shifted position, and said, "Found another one." He didn't answer. She picked up the ball-point pen from beside the ashtray, corrected a typographical error on the page she was reading, and dropped the pen back beside the ashtray, where it made another blue smudge on the sheet.
The typing continued. The girl finished the pages she had been reading, and climbed wearily out of bed. It was hot, and muggy, and almost painful to move. She put the read and corrected portion in an open cardboard box, which had originally contained the bond paper, and went to the kitchenette to open another bottle of beer, which she put on the chair beside the man. He said, "Thanks," without looking up. She picked up the portion he had just finished typing, separated bond from onion skin, and brought the good copy back to bed. She adjusted herself on the damp sheets and started to read.
The cat moved on the mantelpiece, sat up and washed her face, first with one paw, then the other. The man typed. The girl read.
The man said, "Ha!" He got to his feet, knocking the chair over behind him. The cat, startled, dove from the mantelpiece and hid under the bed. The man took the last sheet from the typewriter, sorted paper for a minute, and brought the last portion of the manuscript over to the girl. He was grinning. The sweat poured down his face, his T-shirt and khaki trousers were clinging to him, but he looked cool and content. "It's done," he said. "Finished. Complete."
"I'm hot, baby," she said. "Could I have some iced tea?"
"Sure." Reaching down, he grabbed her thigh and squeezed. "It's all done, baby, it's all done."
"Well, let me read it, for heaven's sake."
"Right you are." He brushed his hand roughly across the up-tilted nipples of her breasts, and she giggled, looking up at him. "Read fast," he said.
He went to the kitchenette and made iced tea. The cat came out from under the bed, hoping the man was preparing food, and twined around his legs, rubbing herself against him and purring heavily. He almost tripped over her when he moved to the refrigerator for ice, and said, "J.J.! Get the hell away from here."
The girl looked over and patted the bed. "Here, J.J." The cat ignored her.
"I'll get rid of him," said the man. He moved to the sink, slowed down by the cat curling between his feet, and turned the cold water on. He held his hand under the faucet, then held it so it dripped water on the cat. The cat bolted for the bed again, and crawled far underneath.
The man made the iced tea and brought it to the bed. The girl took it, said, "Mmmm," and kept on reading. She only had two pages to go.
He got his beer bottle, half-empty again, and brought it over to the bed. He moved ashtray and pen to the floor, brushed the sheet a bit, without doing much good, and sat down beside the girl. He kicked his slippers off and drank from the beer bottle, his head back and the adam's apple working like a piston in his throat.
"Pen," she said. He gave it to her, watched her change 'teh' to 'the', and took the pen back when she was finished with it. Hopefully, he dropped it to the floor again.
The beer was gone by the time she finished reading. She clambered from the bed, put the last pages of the manuscript with the rest, and came back to bed. He studied her face, waiting for her to say something, but she stayed silent, and her face was expressionless. "Well?" he said. She lay beside him, on her back, staring at the ceiling, and he leaned over her, resting on his elbow. "Well? What did you think of it?"
"What did you think of it?" she asked him.
"Don't be smart-alecky," he told her. Her near leg was raised, the knee bent, and he squeezed the underpart of her thigh. When she said, "Ouch," he released her, but kept his hand resting against her leg. "That was only a sample," he said. "Give me the information I want, or I call the executioner."
"I thought it was fine," she said. She looked at him and smiled, touching his unshaven cheek with her fingertips. "I think you're fine, too."
He leaned forward and kissed her, their lips warm, their faces slick with perspiration where they touched together. Her belly was hot beneath his hand. "It's finished," he whispered. "It's all done."
She turned her head away. "It's too hot."
"Hah!" He twisted violently on the bed, raised to his knees. "It's finished!" he shouted. "A celebration!"
"It's too hot," she said again.
"It's never too hot." He leaped and gestured on the bed, pulling off his clothes, and the cat ran out from under the bed and leaped back up on the mantel. She yawned and stretched out on the cool marble of the mantel top, her tail switching slowly back and forth, in vague irritation at the heat.
"Danny," whispered the girl.
"It's finished," he said again, and fell on top of her. They wrestled on the hot, damp sheets, their bodies oily and warm, and the discomfort was part of the pleasure. They groaned and twisted, their lashing legs kicking the top sheet to the floor, and the cat raced around the room, leaping and churning, her tail whipping back and forth.
The girl clung to the man atop her, arms and legs encircling him, and she whispered, "Danny, I love you, I love you, oh, Danny, I love you."
"It's finished," he whispered.
The sofa-bed creaked, their bodies pulsed together, and the girl went suddenly rigid. Her back was arched, buttocks clear of the bed, her mouth was open in a demanding, silent scream, and he hurried, hurried, and stopped.
Until the first coolness of evening filtered through the venetian blinds, they lay together in the bed, smoking, drinking beer or iced tea, breathing heavily, touching each other's moist body and smiling together. The cat slept on the mantel, still and silent.
Two months later, the girl left him. There was a note: "Danny. You don't love me. All you love is the book. I can't compete with the book, so I'm not going to stay. But you're making a mistake. You can't love that book forever."
He got the note the same day the letter came, telling him the book had been accepted for publication. He held the two letters, looking from one to the other, and smiled. She was right, and it didn't matter. He could find another woman, but there was only the one book.
* * * *