26 July 2008

Could Only Have Been Written By A Parent

I finished Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union last night around 11:30. I'm a fan of Chabon's writing - as a reader you get the feeling that he's invested a lot of thought in the words he was choosing to put down on the page, wanting to get it just right (unlike Anne Rice who does not edit and it shows). As with Chabon's other writings, the characters in this novel are lush and very human. And while I thoroughly enjoyed this book, there was one passage that struck me as so true to life, I committed the page number to memory (page 192 in the paperback edition). The book is long like Chabon's other excellent novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, but so worth the time and effort.

I'm not going to bog you down with plot points, but the main character, Detective Meyer Landsman, is recovering from a minor gunshot wound in the bed of his partner (who is also his cousin). The partner is married with two small children.

Sometime in the middle of the night, Goldy [one of the little boys] careers into the room. His tread is heavy and lumbering, a baby monster's. He doesn't just climb into the bed, he roils the blankets the way a wire whisk roils a batter. Its like he's fleeing something, panicked, but when Landsman speaks, asks him what's wrong, the boy doesn't answer. His eyes are closed, and his heart beats steadily and low. Whatever he was running from, he found shelter from it in his parents' bed. The kid is sound asleep. He smells like a piece of cut apple that's starting to turn. He digs his toes into the small of Landsman's back with care and without mercy. He grinds his teeth. The sound of it is like dull shears on a sheet of tin.

After an hour of this kind of treatment, around four-thirty, the baby starts to scream,... Landsman can hear Ester-Malke
[his partner's wife] trying to comfort him. Ordinarily, she would bring him into her bed, but that's not an option tonight, and it takes her a long time to settle the little grandfather down. By the time Ester-Malke wanders into the bedroom with the baby in her arms, he's snuffling and quieter and almost asleep. Ester-Malke dumps Pinky between his brother and Landsman and walks out.

Reunited in their parents' bed, the Shemets boys set up a whistling and rumbling and a blatting of inner valves that would shame the grand pipe organ of Temple Emanu-El. The boys execute a series of maneuvers, a kung fu of slumber, that drives Landsman to the very limit of the bed. They chop at Landsman, stab him with their toes, grunt and mutter. They masticate the fiber of their dreams. Around dawn, something very bad happens in the baby's diaper. It's the worst night Landsman has ever spent on a mattress, and that is saying a good deal.


I'm guessing this was written from experience as Chabon is father to 4 children. This passage made me laugh out loud because I've been there so very many times.

1 comment:

Looseyfur said...

LOL! X-man sleeps very much the same way. In fact, he's like a little compass. He figures out which way the pillows are and uses that as his North. Then he turns 90 degrees to the right and falls asleep sideways in his bed.

This is why we went for the full-size bed. :-)