Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Ugly Girls"

Lindsay Hunter is the author of the story collections Don’t Kiss Me and Daddy’s. Originally from Florida, she now lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and two pit bulls.

Hunter applied the Page 69 Test to Ugly Girls, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Ten hours of that light left Jim feeling like an animal. And he got to leave it after that. These men had to stay. Once, a meek, whip-thin drug addict on a three-year stint had come in, and it was clear he had meant to stay under the radar, never asking for seconds, never looking anyone in the eye. Jim had hope for him, had even stopped outside his cell to talk about the weather. The addict talked about feeling the warm rain on his face once he got out. But those lights. After a month the man had to be thrown in solitary for writing CRACK in his own fecal matter on his roommate’s bed.

Jim rounded the corner and saw that O’Toole was also waiting to be buzzed in to the next area. “Morning,” Jim said.

O’Toole snapped his fingers what felt like mere centimeters from Jim’s nose. “Get a cup of coffee, Tipton. It ain’t fucking morning.” Jim grabbed O’Toole’s hand so tight he could hear the surprise pop pop of O’Toole’s knuckles cracking. Happened almost before he could stop himself. Like he had turned the channel and now he was watching some new scene. O’Toole wasn’t a big man, but he’d fight back if it was called for, and the thought made Jim let go.

“What the fuck, Tipton?” O’Toole was panting, his breath warm and moist.

“Just kidding around,” Jim said. He could barely get the words out. Lactic acid was pouring into his muscles. He felt feverish, and sorry, and filled with dread. “Go on ahead,” he told O’Toole, though the man had already turned.

Sometimes Jim thought if he could just take Perry to work, if she could just see what breaking the rules did to a person . . . but then this shit with O’Toole reminded him that life wasn’t no better on the other side of the bars. He shook his head. Had to stop thinking like that. But it was true. Taking Perry to work would only show her that you’re damned if you do and goddamned if you don’t.
Jim is actually one of my favorite characters in the book, and I love his scenes when he's at work. He's a prison guard, and at home he's got an alcoholic wife and a teenage stepdaughter, Perry, who he sees going in a bad direction, so for Jim maybe the only time he feels any peace is on the drive to or from work. But even then, he's driving toward something terrible. His worry about humanity, his worry about Perry, they are one and the same. He sees how men turn into animals and he has been fighting it in himself for some time. He wants something different for Perry but he knows that might be a pipe dream. This feels pretty representative of the book in that the characters are often working toward or pining for a different life, or even a different moment in the life they're in, and that pining only illuminates the life they're actually in. The moment they're actually in. Over and over, they're confronting themselves. The selves they are and the selves they want to be and the selves they wish they weren't. So read on, readers! We're in this together, now.
Visit Lindsay Hunter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue