Vol. 5, No. 1
In A.M. Homes’ new novel, May We Be Forgiven, out next month, the narrator is often saying to his brother’s children: “That’s not an option.” He doesn’t say, “That’s impossible,” or the dreaded, “Because I said so.” He respects them enough to tell it like it is; that life’s a buffet—sure, it’s a crappy buffet with little selection—but at least if you’re honest about your choices you won’t waste time pursuing those that aren’t available to you. At least that’s one point of view.
Children, thankfully, are not so cynical. When you’re young, when your world is sheltered and your options for exploration limited, even a visit to a friend’s house becomes an anthropological expedition; each family, an as-yet unknown tribe.
Here, in A.M.’s “Hello Everybody,” they are the “pool people,” an L.A. family who lives for air-conditioning and calorie-counting, for whom a bathing suit is a uniform but who hate getting wet. Their home is a cabinet of oddities, with an absence of regular-size refrigerators (“we’re more ‘prepared food’ people than cooks”), plastic flaps to keep in the cold air (“very vulval or grocer’s dairy case”), and a room programmed to personal preferences (“there’s a hierarchy of who tops who”). For Walter, our would-be anthropologist home from college on the gray, woolen east coast, Cheryl is the ideal guide. She is close to completely integrating into her own family, but still able to ask questions like, “Is this a place that only exists in this place and couldn’t exist anywhere else? Like a state of mind or a moment in time?”
The answer, most likely, is yes. Because how could this world exist outside of A.M. Homes’ particular blend of logic and unreality; ripe with exciting invention, but still with a strong respect for the ordinary and the familiar. Like adding a new spice to an old recipe: maybe you know the taste but certainly not this way.
Co-Editor, Recommended Reading
by A.M. Homes
Recommended by Electric Literature
SHE HEARS HIS CAR GRINDING UP THE HILL. At the edge of the driveway, the engine shudders, continuing on for a few seconds before falling silent. Walter buzzes the front gate; Esmeralda, the housekeeper, lets him in. The gate closes with a thick metallic click.
“Where are you?” he calls out.
“I’m hiding,” Cheryl yells from the backyard.
He enters the through the pool gate.
“Shouldn’t that be locked?” she asks.
“I remembered the code,” he says.
“The pool boy’s code, 1234?”
He nods. “Some things never change.”
“Is that good or bad?” she wants to know.
“It’s difficult,” he says. She is right where he left her—on a recliner by the edge of the water.
“You look pale,” she says, raising her sunglasses, squinting to examine him.
He looks down at his arms. “I’m regular,” he says.
“How can you see anything? Your glasses are so dark.”
“They’re for sailing,” he says. “You know, the reflection off the water.”
“They’re wrap around, like an old man with cataracts,” she says.
“Cadillacs,” he says. “I always used to wonder what was so bad about being old and having Cadillacs. I’m blind,” he says, taking the glasses off. “In the east the light is softer, gentler, more shadows. Here it’s klieg bright, like living on a film set. And you?” he asks. “How are you?”
“Blind too,” she says, “But only when I go indoors. When I go inside everything is black and I crash into things.”
He sits on the recliner next to hers and puts the glasses on again.