Man About Town
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Joel Lingeman has been set adrift. Until recently, life was 'relative contentedness'; working for Congress, frequenting the Hill club a little too frequently, cooking dinner for two every night and routine sex on Sundays. Now Sam, his lover of fifteen years, has left him for a stunning twenty-three year old and he cannot score a trick in the sleaziest pick-up joint in town. Joel's revulsion for the politics around him has dissipated into mild amusement at the 'social Darwinists' ready to snatch the last cents from the hands of the old and ailing. And he is increasingly obsessed by the different lives he could have led. When a teenage fantasy reasserts itself, the blond haired demi-god his eye once fell upon modelling swimsuits in the back of an old magazine, Joel is overcome by a pervasive sense of loss and embarks on a quest to hunt down 'the Santa Fe boy'. Astutely observed and resonant with dark, sardonic undertones, Man About Town is an unforgettable novel about losing your way, your self-esteem and your security.
Joel said. “He could have died by now.” “I—” “He could have had cancer or a heart attack or … for all you know he was gay and got AIDS.” “He wasn’t gay,” Joel said, inadvertently joining in the past tense. He could have died by now. “He could have gone to Vietnam a few months after that picture was taken and he could have been shot in some rice paddy and he could have been dead all this time.” Dead all this time: why not? Dead while Joel went to college, got the job at OLA, dead while Joel
would have liked to learn something about Bate, who was more a mystery than a solver of mysteries. But he expected Bate would reveal nothing—the man barely revealed information he had been paid to obtain—and that instead the conversation would turn to Joel: Joel’s motives, Joel’s plans. Bate would sit in his black raincoat, ignoring his little salad, and watch as Joel, mouth full, tried to explain what he could not explain to himself. “I’m sorry,” Joel said. “I hate to hold up your lunch, but I
he said, “That’s okay.” If the entire exchange had occurred a few days earlier, Joel would have thought: of course, he has his dignity, he must think I’m patronizing him. This morning, though, only Joel’s dignity was in question. He didn’t mind being taken; he minded being taken for a fool. “I’ve sort of already been helping you out,” he said. “You mean, like, dinner? You pay for dinner? You’re the one wants to go all these places. I wouldn’t care if we went to McDonald’s. Or we can stay in
bedroom. He held out his hand; this time Joel grasped it and found that it was damp. Warm and sticky as a child’s hand. He went to the foyer, leaving Sam and Joel facing each other in the living room. Neither knew what to do. Shake hands? Hug? Sam must have been discovering the same thing Joel was. They were indissoluble, and at the same time there was nothing between them, nothing left at all. Kevin was still in the foyer, stamping his foot a little, like a dog who needs to be let out. Sam
hadn’t been far enough out to do them. And of course he couldn’t do them with Sam: there were things you couldn’t possibly do with someone who was going to be there the next day, and the next. Scenes. A whole repertory of sacrileges and indignities that he could inflict or endure. He had his hand on the phone, he was about to pick up the receiver and dial. “What are you into?” Fred would say. Expecting an acronym. Probably there was one. Joel would start to explain: first you do this, then I …