The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen

The following is an excerpt from The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen, forthcoming from Vintage Books in February 2004.


October 9, 2001-All the lonely people indeed. Whoever they are, I've never been one of them. The lack of other people is a balm. It's the absence of strain and stress. I understand monks and hermits, anyone who takes a vow of silence or lives in a far-flung cave. And I thought-hoped, rather-that I would live this way for the rest of my life, whatever time is left to me.

This morning I woke up, lit a cigarette as always. I remembered that Dennis was downstairs, and then instinctively I reached for my pen and rooted around for this old blank notebook, and here I still am, writing about myself with the date at the top of the page like a lovelorn teenage diarist with budding breasts and a zit she can't get rid of. Words stay neatly in the head during times of solitude, they don't jump out through the pen to land splat on the page. Knowing that Dennis is lurking down there makes me jumpy. I have a nasty feeling he's not leaving anytime soon. His presence has diverted my life from its natural course.

Here I am, a decaying forty-year-old man in his decaying childhood home at the ruined finale of a wasted life. My hand is stiff. My faculties are moribund. Outside, below my tower window, the Hudson River sparkles and glints with untoward goodwill, blue, placid, and untroubled today, but sure to change its mood. There it lies, and has lain all my life, always changing, always there, in all its mercurial quiddity.

The lascivious pleasure I derive from phrases such as "mercurial quiddity" might possibly be all that prevents me now from flinging myself downstairs to beat my brother about the face and neck with my bare hands, shouting invectives and heartfelt pleas to go away. I wish more than anything that Dennis had stayed where he belonged, across the river with his wife Marie and their spawn, the bony cantankerous second-grader Evie and the bubbly sexy kindergartner Isabelle. Girls: this generation of Whittier sperm seems to produce only girls. It's the end of our name and our line, unless they turn out to be lesbians who adopt children with their "wives" and call them Whittier. God fucking forbid.


—Excerpted from The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen Copyright© 2003 by Kate Christensen. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, 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.