Constant Reader
WebBoardOrientationReading ListsHome WorksActivities

Tony and Susan
by Austin Wright

To: ALL Date: 02/02 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 8:53 AM TONY AND SUSAN by Austin Wright I know I said we would start discussing this book the second week of February, but I finished it several days ago and didn't want to forget what I was going to say. This is a very fast read. It plops you down in the middle of a life and urges you to keep reading--fast, especially the beginning. I know you will all be fascinated with the premise: a woman's ex-husband sends her a manuscript of his novel to read. Their divorce was facilitated by his wanting to become a writer, instead of a lawyer, making the woman wonder just why he is sending her the mss. We get to read his book along with her, see her reactions, learn a little more about her as we go along. I got caught up in the book within the book much more than in the reader's life. I want you all to read it (I won't give any plot spoiler information just yet). It's an easy, fast read, it's compelling, there are numerous questions we could mull over. One of them is: can you use a book as a weapon? I'm not sure I'm satisfied with the ending. I want all of you to tell me why. Paging Sarah Hart. I know you read this. Get online. Sherry =============== Reply 1 of Note 22 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/02 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:55 AM Sherry: I haven't been able to read anything but tea-leaves in weeks, but this book sounds interesting. It also raises an issue I've previously considered: can a person be too polite to be a writer? Whenever I think about writing something longer than an Ashleigh Brillant quotoid, I realize that I will have to reveal my inner-most thoughts about the characters in my story -- all of whom are taken, whole-cloth, kicking and screaming, from real life. Since some of my private musings about friends and family are not entirely flattering (to them or me) I always thought such a writing project would place unfortunate, and possibly fatal, burdens on relationships that I treasure (no matter how flawed the participants). Can you be an honest and good writer and still have a family and friends? I mean, I don't think I'd confide in Pat Conroy anymore, if I was an old high school buddy, just to name one example. Dick in Alaska, feeling a bit like he's writing to Miss Manners =============== Reply 2 of Note 22 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 02/02 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 12:14 PM Dear Dick, It shouldn't take you very long to read this, and I think there will be some interesting questions to talk over. We've missed you. This novel within a novel is not obviously a weapon, but it gives the reader (both the the fictional reader and us out here) edgy feelings. I think you're right about writing a novel and keeping all your friends and family speaking to you. Maybe a pseudonym could work. "The Story of D in A". Hmmmm. Sherry =============== Reply 3 of Note 22 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/02 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 1:14 PM Dick, I've mulled over the same question. My poetry all comes from real life and there are poems I would die if my mother ever saw, yet they are written out of my love and concern for her. I've also done short stories that are so true to events that they'll never see the light of day. How do writers reconcile their love and affection for friends and family with the things that pop into their work, consciously or unconsciously? Ruth, who's hoping you're back to stay =============== Reply 4 of Note 22 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/02 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 3:28 PM Sherry, I've decided to keep reading thru TONY & SUSAN, even though I was "spooked" by it in the beginning. I don't like to read it at night, because, as you say, it gives one an "edgy feeling." So that's slowing me down. I hope I finish it soon because I want to follow the discussion here, but don't want the discussion to spoil the story for me. You said, we'd be discussing it the second week in February". That sounds about right. -Joy, "hooked" by TONY & SUSAN =============== Reply 5 of Note 22 =================  
To: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Date: 02/02 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 11:55 PM PROGRESS REPORT. I'm almost half way thru T &S. This one's a page-turner, folks. I won't finish it tonight, but it won't be for lack of trying. And you're right, Joy, it's scary. First time in a long time I've had to look up from a book and take a deep breath and remind myself that I'm safe in my living room, reading. Ruth =============== Reply 6 of Note 22 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 02/03 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 9:28 AM greetings SIR RICHARD OF ALASKA.. i finished a book titled YO by julia alvarez..the premise is that YO is a writer and wrote what she was told to write...about her life and those around her... she did and the repercussions in this poignant book makes for some fascinating and wondeful writing....but those poor people who felt they were exposed...they were angry!! gail..hp..a passionate reader who started reading TONY AND SUSAN and realized my group may find this book interesting...but the concept of book within a book is old already just as the shopworn scenerios of the lonely..poor down trodden ..abused punctuated in so much of our literature today... i ascribe it to plain old social commentary.. =============== Reply 7 of Note 22 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 02/03 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 9:24 PM Ruth, I finished reading TONY & SUSAN today. The pages turn faster & faster as you go on! Now I've got Eddie reading it! I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's comments. Imagine all the "hidden meanings" that'll be brought forward. -Joy, finally relaxing after the suspense is over =============== Reply 8 of Note 22 =================  
To: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Date: 02/03 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:51 PM Sherry, Joy, Ruth, gail, and all, I nominated this books for the list because I wanted someone to discuss it with me. At the very beginning *************SPOILER ALERT***************** when Tony is stopped on the interstate, he just can't believe that something that awful could happen to him. He is expecting those men to drive away after they have sufficiently harrassed him and his family. I think that this is the way most civilized people react to terror. We all expect others to be nice to us, and when they aren't we are very surprized. I also think that I would be like Tony after he is dropped off in the woods, and he keeps imagining that he will find his wife and daughter at the police station. Other possibilities are too horrendous for him to comprehend. I was interested in his way of grieving as well. Did you think this was realistic? Tony felt that people were tired of him and that his situation had gone on long enough. I am reading the book for the second time, and I found that although I remembered Tony's story vividly, I didn't recall Susan's at all. Jane who has too little time to ponder tonight. =============== Reply 9 of Note 22 =================  
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 02/03 From: KFBC86B JEAN MILLER BELL Time: 10:38 PM I tried to read TONY AND SUSAN a couple of weeks ago but could not get into it. I would have liked to find out about the cop who tortures the suspect and ends up hating the original victim more, but the book did not hold my interest enough to keep going. I admit I read only to the part where Susan finishes the first chapter, but the story was odd and I couldn't get interested in the characters. Jean--who is having no trouble getting into THE SHINING SHINING PATH =============== Reply 10 of Note 22 =================  
To: KFBC86B JEAN MILLER BELL Date: 02/04 From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 3:17 PM Tony and Susan was a gripping story, it was hard for me to put it down because I wanted to know where it was going and what it was in Edward's novel that Susan felt was intended for her personally. Sorting it out afterwards I was inclined to not try to read too much into it but rather compared it to my own experience of reading certain novels at a time when my own life has been troublesome and trying to relate personally with the characters. Susan seemed to be looking for answers in the writing that would shed light on the turn her life had taken. In this way the book would seem to be how our reading lives and actual lives interact. If there was some lesson in Tony's story that was directed to Susan it seemed to be more about what they didn't do or couldn't do about their situations rather than about anything else. Still I'm waiting to see what riches the CR's will plumb from this fascinating book. Barb Hill =============== Reply 11 of Note 22 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 02/04 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 5:56 PM -- A few questions for all who have finished TONY & SUSAN: (1) What was the source of Susan's feelings of dread and uneasiness as she was reading the book? (2) What do you think was the something missing that Edward asked her about? (3) Do you think Tony was portrayed realistically? How would YOU have reacted when the toughs wanted to trade cars? (4) Why do you think Susan wanted Arnold to read the book at the end? To show him that she had made a mistake in marrying him? (5) Do you think Edward was writing this novel as a kind of punishment of Susan? And if so, why was it a punishment? Was it just a book and Susan was reading more into it? (6) We didn't get to see much of Edward, but why do you think he wanted Susan to read the book and then not show up to discuss it with her? Really, folks, I'm not trying to play the part of teacher. These are questions I have myself, and I would love to have some of your insights. Sherry on a day that looked like it was brought to you by the Letter Y for Yucky =============== Reply 12 of Note 22 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/04 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 6:17 PM I finished this book this morning, under the dryer at the hairdressers. It was quite a contrast to the inane chitchat going on around me. Like others here, I found myself more interested in the Tony story than the Susan story. Small wonder, it's a story of action and suspense, whereas Susan's story is mostly introspection. I do think that the key to the relationship between the two stories is in what exactly is missing from Tony story. It's mentioned at least 2 or 3 times so we know the author felt it was important. But as of now, I haven't a clue what it is. Ruth, waiting to hear from all of you =============== Reply 13 of Note 22 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 02/04 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 7:42 PM Jane, (SPOILER ALERT) Yes, I kept saying to myself, if Tony had only known what was going to happen to his wife & daughter, he might have behaved differently when the harassing began. But when I try to play it out, I think that no matter what he would have done, it wouldn't have helped in the end. He was outnumbered & his car was disabled. What if they had just stayed in the car with the doors locked? But playing the woulda/shoulda/coulda game with the knowledge of hindsight is a kind of torture all its own. No, he could never have imagined what those guys were up to. They were playing word games with him, confusing him, making him feel foolish. I still feel sorry for him. As far as Tony's grieving, it just hurts me to think about it. Give me some time. -Joy =============== Reply 14 of Note 22 =================  
To: KFBC86B JEAN MILLER BELL Date: 02/04 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 7:42 PM Jean, (SMALL SPOILER ALERT-last two lines below) I had trouble getting into TONY & SUSAN too. I quit for a few days. But I so wanted to follow this discussion, that I forced myself to plod on, a few pages at a time. And took off all by itself & I couldn't stop reading. I think it was the dialogue that caught me up, especially when the policeman/detective takes Ray back to the scenes of the crime with Tony. I was on the edge of my chair. -Joy =============== Reply 15 of Note 22 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 02/04 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 7:42 PM Barb, (SPOILER ALERT) You made a good point about the parallel of helplessness both in Susan's life & Tony's. I hadn't quite thought of that yet. I've been thinking of the sentence on p.332, " made her think of the precariousness of her sheltered life." Perhaps there's an answer there. All our lives are precarious in a way. I'm still trying to see the parallel between the "blinding" Susan (Edward said she made him feel blind with her criticisms) & the "blinded" Tony. I'm sure someone here will come up with something. -Joy =============== Reply 16 of Note 22 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/04 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 7:42 PM Sherry, Great questions. Give me some time to digest them. I'll be back, if only as a lurker. I'm tired already. Joy =============== Reply 17 of Note 22 =================  
To: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Date: 02/04 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:21 PM Joy and all, I think that one reason that I found this book so chilling is that I had a similiar experience when I was 21 but with a happy ending. I had just returned from France, and my brother and his wife came to New York to pick me up. We drove from New York to Cincinnati in my VW that I had bought in Europe, and on the Ohio turnpike we had a flat tire on a hill. It was about 11pm and the jack would not hold up the car because the side of the road was very soft. Let me mention that my brother and his wife were in their mid 20's and both looked like movie stars at that time. They were the type of couple that made heads turn when they walked into a room. I was an average looking 21 year-old. Anyway, after about an hour a logging truck stopped, and four rough looking men stepped out. My brother said, "Oh, My God! They are going to kill me and rape the two of you!" They laughed a lot and swore so we were scared to death, and then they cut off the end of a log, put the VW on it, changed the tire, and left. When I read TONY AND SUSAN the first time, I thought that something similar would happen to him. Then when Laura and Helen died, I thought, "There but for the grace of God go I." I haven't quite finished my second reading, but I will post more later. Jane who has lived 29 years since that incident. =============== Reply 18 of Note 22 =================  
To: KFBC86B JEAN MILLER BELL Date: 02/04 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 10:01 PM greetings to all in our SLO MO BOOK GROUP.. i JEAN..couldn't get into this book...i dashed into the book..DRUNK WITH ENTHUSIASM....but it didn'twork...decided to bring it up for my group selection...and if they are interested....i will definitely give it another go!!!! please understand..i am a very moody reader...and at a later date it may roll... gail..hp..a passionate reader starting COUSIN BETTE by BALZAC... =============== Reply 19 of Note 22 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 02/04 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 10:18 PM Jane, What a scare! You were lucky indeed! Bells must have started ringing when you started reading TONY & SUSAN. Joy, still thinking about Sherry's questions =============== Reply 20 of Note 22 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/04 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 10:18 PM Sherry, Re Quest. #1 (about the source of Susan's uneasiness): Was Susan feeling guilty about her unfaithfulness to Edward & her failure to support his desire to be a writer? Was this the source of her uneasiness, coupled with her worry about the faithfulness of her present husband Arnold? Was Susan feeling as helpless as Tony, (as Barbara Hill suggested)? Joy, waiting to read other people's answers to this question & all the others. =============== Reply 21 of Note 22 =================  
To: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Date: 02/04 From: KFBC86B JEAN MILLER BELL Time: 10:57 PM It is possible I will give it a try again in the future. I still look forward to reading the notes on T&S. Jean =============== Reply 22 of Note 22 =================  
To: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Date: 02/05 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 8:48 AM Dear Joy, I think your answer to Question #1 is very likely. If I remember correctly, Arnold tended to make fun of Edward's writing attempts--probably as a way to justify his and Susan's infidelity. Now that Edward seems to have a decent book on his hands, it would be hard to keep that up. They would be faced with the reality of what they did--on its own merits. Susan is neglecting (on purpose) to see problems in her present marriage. This book forces her to look at her life and make her think hard about the decisions she made--a prospect that she finds chilling. Now what do you all think is "left out"? I'm still stumped by that one. Sherry in frozen slush Milwaukee =============== Reply 23 of Note 22 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/05 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 12:34 PM Yes, Sherry. I'd like to know what people thought was "left out" of Edward's book. As I said before, I think it may be the key to the whole interrelationship between the 2 books. It was obviously important to the author. Ruth, clueless =============== Reply 24 of Note 22 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/05 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 3:22 PM Sherry & all, Perhaps the part of the novel that Edward feels is lacking is the final summation, the "police report" on the entire episode. Perhaps Edward is trying to get Susan to see that there needs to be a final summation of what really happened in their lives. What would the police report say? Who was guilty of what? The detective would have to "fudge" the report. Would Susan be able to "fudge" a summation of her own marital history? Where was the guilt to be laid? On Edward for being so selfish in his search for fulfillment? Or on Susan for being resentful & distrustful of Edward's goals? As for "aggressive" policework, does the end >>> justify the means? Tony knew it didn't, but in the end, he gave his life because he shot Ray without just cause. Where does that leave Susan? With a dead marriage because she too didn't have just cause for what she did? Is that what Edward is trying to imply with his novel? Joy =============== Reply 25 of Note 22 =================  
To: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Date: 02/05 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 7:14 PM Joy, You have some very interesting possibilities for the "missing link." I'll think some more about this. Sherry =============== Reply 26 of Note 22 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/05 From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 7:34 PM But did Edward know that Susan's marriage was troubled? They hadn't heard from each other for years. I think your question #6 and #2 are related in a way. I think it was important to Edward that Susan read his book (he wanted to prove he had it in him) but not important to him to discuss it with her. Thinking she would have to she would read it more carefully. Also thinking there was something missing she would read it more carefully. Barbara Hill =============== Reply 27 of Note 22 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 02/05 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 11:51 PM Barbara and all, I have been thinking about question 1 as well. I think Susan's feeling of dread was that she might learn that she made a mistake when she left Edward for Arnold. Edward might prove through his book that he really was the writer and dreamer that he said he was as a young man. Susan seemed very unhappy with Arnold because he hadn't lived up to her expectations either. Susan seems to be a "grass is always greener" person. Susan also hadn't reached her own dream of becoming a writer, and Edward beat her to it. Just a quick thought. Jane is Colorado where it is supposed to snow tonight. =============== Reply 28 of Note 22 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 02/06 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 9:06 AM Dear Barbara, I hadn't thought that he might be using the question as a kind of excuse to get her to read the book. Hmm.... I can see how that might be a very human thing to do. Here, read this, see if it needs anything. You may very well be right, and we may be over-analyzing. Sherry =============== Reply 29 of Note 22 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 02/06 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 10:02 AM Barbara, When I said "dead marriage", I was referring to the marriage of Susan & Edward. You have a good point when you say "she would read it more carefully" if she thought there was something missing. I also thought it was possible, as you said, "he wanted to prove he had it in him." Perhaps that's all Wright had in mind when he wrote the story. Sometimes we read more into things than are really there. I guess we'll never know & that's what makes it interesting. -Joy =============== Reply 30 of Note 22 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 02/06 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 10:02 AM Jane, I think you're right. Susan did express some doubts about how she had handled her life. Yes, I do remember reading the part where she wondered if her marriage to Edward would have worked out as well or as bad as her marriage to Arnold. I can't remember the exact words. Wish I could. I wonder how many of us are "grass is always greener" persons, if the truth be told. -Joy, who tries to be an "I'm counting my blessings" person, but while I'm counting, I'm looking over at the other side of the fence. =============== Reply 31 of Note 22 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/06 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 10:02 AM Sherry, I know this is reading too much into the story, but if we really want to think of Edward as a revengeful person, then, accepting the idea that Tony is analagous to Susan, perhaps Arnold blinded Tony the way he (Edward) was blinded by Susan. The question is: Is Edward being revengeful or not when he sends the story to Susan, or is he just saying, "I told you so." By the way, I thought Susan's letter to Edward at the end was a perfect solution. She just didn't want to rock the boat anymore & said the least she could possible say. -Joy, just trying to pull lose ends together. =============== Reply 32 of Note 22 =================  
To: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Date: 02/06 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 12:45 PM All, now that we're well into hashing out the complicated relationships and motivations between the main characters of this book, I'd like to switch the focus 180 degrees. What about the author? Why do you suppose he used this book-within-a-book format? What did it accomplish? Surely he must have been aware that the Tony story, at least on the surface of it, was the one that was going to grab center stage. So why did he encase it within a slow-moving, might I say constipated, chunk of retro- intro- spection? Ruth, wondering if the Tony story was written first and then the author decided what was missing from it could be attained by encasing it in the Susan story. Just a thought. =============== Reply 33 of Note 22 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 02/06 From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 4:02 PM Ruth, I can't answer your question but one of the quoted critics on the back of my paperback edition said: "A thriller, a critique of violence, and an inquisition of our reading lives: such versatility is no surprise to the fans of Austin Wright's fiction ( and his literary theory), but now he has transcended these separable notions and created, as in our national emblem, From Many One. A truly scandalous achievement-remembering that a scandal is a stumbling block, the event that stops you in your tracks." It's that inquisition of our reading lives that I think might be pertinent. B. Hill =============== Reply 34 of Note 22 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 02/06 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 9:12 PM Ruth, I wish we could ask the Austin Wright all these questions. Surely this can't be just a story of a man who wrote a book & merely wants his ex-wife to read it & help polish it up. There are so many parallels between the story & the story-within-the story. This can't be just a coincidence. Is Wright just playing word games with his readers, teasing them, more or less? Just like Ray played word games with Tony? Is this just a story being read by a paranoiac wife? Hey, this story is even making ME paranoiac! LOL! I'm starting to feel sorry for Susan. She's had no luck with two marriages. The first guy seems to neglect her, & he's not too hot a lover. The second guy is a hot lover, but he cheats on her. How much can one girl take? Now her ex sends her this frightening novel after all these years. Let's have a moment of silence for Susan. -Joy =============== Reply 35 of Note 22 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 02/06 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 9:12 PM Inquisition, indeed! If Austin Wright thinks he's going to get me involved in another night of figuring this thing out, he's crazy. I'm not missing Seinfeld for anything! -Joy =============== Reply 36 of Note 22 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 02/06 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:13 PM Barbara, I think you make a good point about questioning our reading lives, because at one point, Susan notices that her children have been glued to the TV for several hours without moving. She considers telling them to turn off the TV, but then she thinks that she has been sitting on the couch with her nose stuck in a book for the same amount of time. She wonders what the difference is. I would like to hear everyone's answer to that question. Some people say that readers are experiencing life vicariously. Reading is such a large part of all of CR's lives that we would not want to give it up. Jane who is enjoying this discussion. =============== Reply 39 of Note 22 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/07 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 2:35 AM Random Thoughts on 'Tony and Susan' -- 1. What could have been 'left out' -- how about the passion? Aren't Tony and Susan both bloodless, careful people, unable to confront even incipient disaster in their respective lives? Why doesn't Susan hit the Doctor's bimbo with a vase? Why doesn't Tony drill the peckerwood murderer? My vote is: they're only partly alive. 2. Tony's blinding/Edward's blinding seem too parallel to be accidental. Obviously, Edward still has a thing (probably sick and negative) about Susan. Who in their right mind would believe that a person they had known virtually as a child (early 20's) and had had no contact with for 25 years, would still be a sufficient soul-mate to read their unpublished novel, and commune on it? I think Edward blamed Susan for leaving him (he was kind of an asexual little twirp, according to her), and robbing him of his creative 'sight'. The book may or may not have have been an intentional slap at her, but at a minimum it reflects his obsession. 3. Susan is as shallow as a day-care wading pool. Here is a woman who opts for big guys with big bucks; her primary concern on contemplating her husband's departure with the bimbo is keeping the retirement accounts in her name. She is so self-absorbed, her family's activities largely elude her, and she can very easily make a mental bargain with herself to forget her husband's philandering in exchange for the house and social station. Two hours of housework is described as "having worked all day". This is not a deep or sympathetic character folks. 4. Why didn't Edward show up for dinner? Maybe he killed himself? Again notice Susan's complete self-absorbtion -- not a SINGLE thought about what could possibly have detained this ex-husband, the author who has so disturbed her thoughts. It's all about her, and humiliating her, etc. In the end it doesn't matter whether it ditched her on purpose, forgot about the time, or dangled himself in the hotel shower -- she wasn't really interested in him or his book. She was interested in Susan. Frankly, this was all a little confusing to me. What about DNA evidence? The women were raped; 'the cold war is over' some character announces; so we're in modern times, forensically speaking. Even some down-home bunch of crackers and rubes could get a conviction on this, unless of course it was OJ, but that's another story. I guess in the end I wasn't very impressed by this book. It's sort of Brian Garfield ('Death Wish') meets Don DeLillo ('White Noise'). Problem is, I prefer both my mayhem and my wierdness straight-up. This one was kind of an experimental cocktail. Dick in Alaska, where you have to be CRAZY to flip off another driver =============== Reply 40 of Note 22 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 02/07 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 2:57 AM Great remarks, Dick. Susan was a royal pain in the ass. I felt sorry for Tony, not all men feel up to punching big weird Als. What I found totally unconvincing though, was Bobby Andes uncoply behavior. Right from the gitgo. Ruth, who almost lost her windshield after flipping someone off (for the last time, may I add) on the Hollywood Freeway =============== Reply 41 of Note 22 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 02/07 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 11:03 AM Richard, "Partly alive", "shallow", passionless, "self-absorbed", practical (about the retirement accounts)...Susan may or may not be all these things, but I still feel sorry for her. We are all interested in ourselves & our own fate to a certain extent. Joy =============== Reply 42 of Note 22 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 02/07 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 12:47 PM Ruth: After some more thought it seems to me that many of the 'flaws' in the inner novel were probably intentional; this wasn't meant be a great book. It was an unedited manuscript by a an unpublished writer. You would expect signficant flaws and it has them -- the evidence problems I mentioned, Andes lack of motivation and depth, the girls at the end who show up as if they got a call from Novelist Equity, are all examples. Frankly, I kept expecting Andes to announce he was in cahoots with the kidnappers, and right up until Ray confessed, I was waiting for this to turn into some kind of weird dream sequence where Tony had actually killed his wife or daughter, and these poor backwoods guys were getting framed. I guess I let my imagination run away with me. I guess we should make a list: Edward gets abandoned by Susan, blinding him creatively; Tony is abandoned first by the kidnappers, then again by Helen and the daughter, when they end up dead; Susan's kids are abandoned while Susan reads books and wallows in introspection; Susan is abandoned by Arnold when he goes to the convention and/or the girlfriend's house; Susan is about to be abandoned, big time and for real, when Arnold moves to Washington D.C. with the bimbo. Is the book about abandonment, or is this all just coincidence? Anyway, if Susan's sense of forboding is about abandonment, she may be on the right track. Dick in Alaska, on a slow start morning =============== Reply 43 of Note 22 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 02/08 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:11 PM Dick, I read your two notes last night, and I had to think about them before I could answer. I don't agree that Susan was "half-alive". I think that she got stuck in a life that she didn't like. She was a stay-at-home mother (not that there is anything wrong with that) when she didn't want to be. She wanted to be a writer and Tony beat her to it. She had rejected Tony because she thought he was using her to "find himself" which was a great 60's activity. I would resent that too, if I were working and my spouse was letting me support him/her. I liked this book because it made me wonder about myself. Most of us are so civilized that we don't realize when something awful is happening until it is too late. The best example of this is the Jews in WWII. They were kind and gentle people who could not comprehend that anyone would wish them evil. Jane who feels a certain kinship to Tony. =============== Reply 44 of Note 22 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 02/08 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:29 PM Jane: Ah, now this is interesting. You and Joy both seem to empathize with Susan. Whereas, I see her as a pure, gold-plated user. She wanted Edward, despite his rather glaring faults and weaknesses, until he decided to move off the fast-track and not become a lawyer. Bye-bye bucks and status, hello grinding poverty. So she dumps him and signs on for the doctor. And she's a definitely happy camper with this life -- there certainly doesn't appear to be anything in her world that prevented her, over a period of 25 years, from becoming a writer. In fact, it never even seemed to cross her mind till she hears from Edward, the erstwhile failure, who suddenly seems to present her with a case of seller's regrets. This is particularly true since the arrival of his ms. coincides with the arrival of potentially bad news about her comfortable financial arrangement with the doctor. Then and only then (if my memory serves) does she begin to grumble that she, too, could have been a writer and anyway Edward wasn't so hot in the first place. I admit all this is not without some ambiguity, but it seems to me that Wright didn't think much of Susan at all -- and that there's a strong case to be made that this book was intended to hang her (or someone very much like her (who, I wonder?) out to dry. Dick in Alaska, swimming upstream on this one apparently, but at least in the water =============== Reply 45 of Note 22 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 02/09 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:20 PM Sir Richard, I am certainly glad to hear your practical, male point of view of this book. I think that the arrival of Edward's ms. pushed Susan into a mid-life crisis, and it made her question everything she had done comfortably for the past 25 years. When she tells about her day of cleaning and doing laundry and dropping off the kids, doesn't it sound empty to you? I wish some of the others would jump in here. Am I crazy to argue with a lawyer? I think so, but I liked the book because it made me think about lots of things. Jane, feeling a tiny bit intimidated but fighting back . =============== Reply 46 of Note 22 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 02/09 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:00 PM Jane: My gosh. We are not arguing. We are discussing a mere difference of opinion. There's a huge difference. Western civilization has an entire history devoted to this distinction, with the one branch (argument) ending up on various battefields and the other branch (discussion) ending up in classrooms and courtrooms. So, to continue the discussion.... You're quite right. Her day with the laundry did sound pretty empty, particulary when she notes it all took only two hours and she accomplished nothing else all day -- I'm sorry, but this woman can't qualify for oppressed status. She's got money, status and oodles of spare time. If her life is empty, all she has do is pick up a shovel and start filling it in, which is something that I don't recall her doing, ever. And, Jane. Shame on you. A "practical, male" viewpoint here in the tag-end of the 90's? I assure, there's not a practical bone in my body. Dick in Alaska, after yet another day at the office =============== Reply 47 of Note 22 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/10 From: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Time: 10:38 AM I've been DYING to dig into this thread, but held off until I finished TONY & SUSAN -- which I did yesterday on the plane. Like Joy and Ruth, I was extremely alarmed at the beginning. This thing should have some sort of "don't read before bedtime" disclaimer on it; this sort of fiction is far more terrifying than anything Stephen King dreams up. Sherry: You have all the same questions I do. The only one I feel comfortable answering is #4. I think Susan wanted Arnold to read the book, not because she made a mistake marrying him, but because he seems to be a little too comfortable in his marriage and career. Though how a guy who was married to someone like Selena can get comfortable in a marriage is a bit of a stretch. Peggy =============== Reply 48 of Note 22 =================  
To: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Date: 02/10 From: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Time: 10:38 AM Joy I'm really enjoying your comments, but my take on Susan's letter at the end was completely different than yours. I saw it as sort of a return volley -- sort of a table-turning -- because now he has to wonder what she thought. Only if he blinks and calls her will he see her reaction to his "I told you so." Peggy =============== Reply 49 of Note 22 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 02/10 From: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Time: 10:38 AM Dick Good call on the "novel within the novel!" I hadn't thought of that, but it does contain some obvious mistakes typical of an amateur novelist (speaking as some one who knows!). I never did figure out what to make of those two women at the end -- I kept trying to make them into some parallel for Laura and Helen, and that they were part of Andes plot all along, but all those threads unraveled. All the careful prose and plotting vanished as Edward neared the end. To me, writing is something along the lines of plate spinning; first one, then several, then a bunch, and you really have to work to keep them from all crashing to the ground. Peggy, still chuckling over "Novelist Equity." =============== Reply 50 of Note 22 =================  
To: UPDQ58A PEGGY RAMSEY Date: 02/10 From: XJKD19F JOY HUOTT Time: 4:50 PM Peggy - I went back & reread the last page of TONY & SUSAN & can see why you feel that Susan's letter to Edward was a "return volley". She thinks of all her frustrations at this point, rips up her original critique, & writes the short reply to Edward instead. However, it says twice, she did it "without thought", the writing & the mailing. That's what threw me. However, I see that it then says, "She wanted to punish Arnold too." That tells us she wanted to punish Edward in some way. It seems to me that when I do something "without thought", it's usually because I'm dying to get it over with. Come to think of it, I'm dying to get this book over with. -Joy =============== Reply 51 of Note 22 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 02/10 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:36 PM Dick, Where I come from, arguing is good, because it means discussing with passion. (One must do everything with passion, n'est-ce pas?) When arguing turns to fighting, you better run for cover. Gosh, right back at ya', I didn't mean to sound sexist with that "male" remark. Maybe, I should have said "your lawerly point of view." I felt that you had taken a book that I really liked and torn it apart which is OK. But, you made so much sense that everyone stopped discussing the book for a day or two. I had the feeling that everyone thought it wasn't worth discussing so the thread came to a screeching halt. Back to Susan. Maybe she didn't realize how empty her life was until she read Edward's novel. Like Joy, I feel sorry for her. People get so caught up in their lives that they are afraid to change anything. Lack of change means security. So Susan had gotten so comfortable in her niche that she was unaware of what she was missing. It took old Edward to shake her up. Selena certainly shook both Susan and Arnold up in their younger days. Keep those "Discussions" coming. Jane who is reading Tony Hillerman's latest and has found some major flaws therein. =============== Reply 52 of Note 22 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 02/10 From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 10:59 PM When Susan was still married to Edward she asked him one time why he wrote. Writing is like seeing, he said, not to write was blindness. Another time he said "The only way to show you why I write is to show you what I write, which I'm not ready for." So after 25 years he showed her. So if someone can tell me why he wrote maybe we will have the answer to everything! B. Hill =============== Reply 53 of Note 22 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 02/11 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 9:32 PM Jane, The discussion of this book has been so interesting that I am sorry I didn't read it. I started, but realized from the first chapter that this one would give me bad dreams. Cowardly Ann, all too susceptible to the power of suggestion =============== Reply 54 of Note 22 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 02/11 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 10:35 PM Dear Cowardly Ann, rest assured, if you make it through the first chapter, you can unlock the doors and relax. Ruth, in gray and chilly California =============== Reply 55 of Note 22 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 02/11 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:41 PM Jane: Well, as long as I'm 'lawyerly' and not overbearing and male, I'll settle for that. But you're right -- there was kind of a loud silence after I posted my thoughts. Come on guys and 'ettes, just because somebody says it firmly doesn't make it right. And I know that even in the silence of cyberspace, you can hear my keyboard scream, but that's no excuse. Sometimes, I wish I could be a little more gentile, but I'm afraid polite is as far in that direction as I can get . But you know what I really think is interesting here, is that much more than the book, I tore into the character of Susan -- and that's what seemed to put people off. The female reviewers (except Ruth -- where ARE you Ruth? I'm out here on this limb all by self...) expressed this sympathy for Susan that I just couldn't understand. And your most recent comment follows in that vein, as you mention the possibility that Edward's novel brought Susan to a realization of the emptiness of her life. I think that's true -- but what about the novel did that? Was it the quality of the writing, or the fact that it was (nearly) darned good made her jealous? Was it subjective realizations of the parallels between her character flaws and Tony's, or was it bitter regret that she'd traded off this intelligent man (the writer) and her own hopes and dreams, for a philandering schmuck of a doctor husband? Was it all of that? I do think getting down to the motivations here will help sort out what we're talking about. And, while I didn't think it was a great book, I'd never waste this many electrons discussing a book I didn't care about, either. And as for you, Ruth, you cowardess, get in here and correct me on some of this, or I'm sending for a card-carrying member of ursinus skilletus to visit you in your otherwise calm suburban abode. Dick in Alaska where he almost settled the case today, but failed =============== Reply 56 of Note 22 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 02/12 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 2:06 AM Here I am, Dick, just readin' along with you. The truth is, Susan is already beginning to fade in my mind. I couldn't see what she saw in Arnold to begin with, other than that oversized dill pickle and a good meal ticket. Even though I went through a midlife crisis myself, and traded husbands too, I just couldn't whip up sympathy for Susan. More self absorbed than Narcissus himself, I thought. Now, Tony, I could feel for. There's lots of men who are more wimply than tradition says they oughta be. No wonder he was carrying around that gibralter of guilt. Ruth, mostly polite, always gentile, sometimes gentle =============== Reply 57 of Note 22 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 02/12 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 12:21 PM Dear Sherry and all T&S readers: I am belatedly with you, although I finished the novel soon after Sherry left Phoenix (a few weeks ago), so it's not as fresh in my mind as I'd like. I had a few minutes this morning, so read through about half of the notes, and hope to finish reading them tomorrow. Quick comments: Jane, I truly enjoyed this book. I raced through it, and had trouble convincing myself not to stay up late finishing it several nights! The questions you raise, Sherry, are exactly those I wondered about while reading, especially "what's missing" and Susan's feeling of dread. She kept asking herself if she were the basis of >> Tony's character: I think in part, but I'll have to ponder it and try to remember exactly which parts. The main similarity I saw between the two is that Susan seemed to have Tony's propensity to "go with the flow," to arrange her life and actions based on what came up for her instead of being more active in decisions. She sort of "fell into" her relationship with Arnold, and seems to have sort of followed him ever since. Tony is equally as passive, expecting things will happen in the way that they "should." When they don't, he is forced to change in order to deal with them. He says (somewhere) that he doesn't feel like himself any more after they die. I'm not sure Susan knows who she >> feels like. Jane, I'm very glad you suggested this, as I had never heard of Austin Wright and more than likely would never have read this book without you. That's my favorite kind of recommendation. Sorry if I'm repeating things already said; I haven't finished reading all your notes. Sarah =============== Reply 58 of Note 22 =================  
To: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Date: 02/12 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 4:44 PM Sara, I think you are exactly right about the "go with the flow" theory. Tony and Susan's dominant characteristic is a kind of mundane passivity. In men it manifests itself as what our culture maintains is wimp. In women it manifests itself as what can seem to be manipulation. But what is it really? Is it a lack of basic strength of character? Is it fear of the unknown? Is it lack of vision? I think it can be all those things. I know many women, especially my age or older, who have an almost evolutionary imperative to marry the man who has the best potential for taking care of a family. They are not even attracted to anyone who is at all "dangerous." When Edward decided to be a writer and not a lawyer he became dangerous to Susan. Her foundation cracked. Everything that she based her future on was being withdrawn. Her affair with Arnold was cowardly, but based on self-preservation for herself and her future family. I think the women on the board feel a kind of sympathy for Susan because her situation is a very familiar one in our culture. We are sorry for her weakness, wish she could have been more forthright with Edward (she does give women a bad name), and found somebody new on her own without resorting to cheating; but some people aren't that strong. I think the men on the board (or Richard in Alaska to be more exact) dislike Susan so much because they think she is a user. And from one point of view she is. But I think she is sad because she is weak, even spawning weak children. And sadder still because that leap she made, that leap she thought would improve her chances in life, ended up making her barren in spirit, if not barren in purse. Have any of you thought that what is missing might be in the book, and not in the book-within-a-book. Tony fought his way out of the woods and was forced to take some charge of his life. Absolutely dragged kicking and screaming into activity. Susan is still lost in the woods. What may be missing is that unfortunate act of fate to drag her screaming into consciousness and activity. Maybe the book-within-a-book is what's missing. Maybe Edward's manuscript will have the same apocalyptic result in her life as Tony's fateful drive that night. Sherry =============== Reply 59 of Note 22 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 02/12 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 5:24 PM Sherry: I think you have reached that critical point in the CR book review process that I call the "CR synthesis". That's the point at which somebody finally puts together the disparate elements that have been nagging at us and posts a unified theory of the book that makes sense. In any event, your comment certainly makes sense of several elements that have bothered me and that weren't reconciled in my mind previously. One other thing I have thought about and haven't really reached a conclusion on: the author as an 'active doer' and the reader as a 'passive person to whom things happen' seems to be a kind of an ongoing theme in this book. Much is made, repeatedly, about Susan's love of reading. And she clearly uses her reading of the novel to escape from the perils of real life. However, I'm not sure how that fits in comfortably anywhere in the story; perhaps Wright is simply making a more general point. Something about your post kind of jangled my memory on that point, however -- let me reread yours and think some more. More thinking is always a good option. Dick in Alaska, present at the birth of another synthesis, or at least standing by during some pretty heavy contractions =============== Reply 60 of Note 22 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 02/12 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:53 PM Dick, I think that I relate more closely to Tony than to Susan. I am the type of person who has to think something over before I respond. Tony didn't know how to react when those three men kidnapped his family. Sometimes, there is not time to think things over. Jane who is off to Colorado Springs to take a course on the French Internet. Formidable, n'est-ce pas? =============== Reply 61 of Note 22 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 02/12 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 10:12 PM Jane: Run, do not walk, to the corner newstand and pickup yesterday's New York Times -- it has a front page story on the great French malaise, as America and the internet swamp the fine old bureaucratic virtues of Republican France. Fascinating article and just in time for your class! Dick in Alaska, who believes we should subsidize France not to change anything (ok, subsidize them MORE not to change anything.) P.S. I definitely have an uneasy affinity for Tony as well. What man (male) doesn't think back through a lifetime of "If only I'd sucker-punched the ******-*****r a half a second earlier, the entire course of human history, not to mention my miserable little, pathetic, impotent, drooping, insignificant, spineless existence, would have been MUCHO different!" Yeah, you bet it woulda been. Gimme another beer. In fact gimme two beers, with a shot back and... Sorry. Got carried away there. Sometimes this cyber-testosterone is a little much; gets into my typing glands and runs away with me. Dick in Alaska, at the age where you have to select your glandular disturbances carefully =============== Reply 62 of Note 22 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 02/12 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 10:16 PM Dick & Jane, if only Tony had had my cast-iron skillet, things might have been different. Ruth, in California, which ain't sunny =============== Reply 63 of Note 22 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 02/14 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 2:19 PM Okay, T&S readers and discussers (or arguers), I have finished note 62 of 62 and have marshalled my thoughts a little. Sherry, thanks for (not so subtly) nudging me back into CR, which is of course where I belong--where else could I get these comments that add so much to my reading experience, in addition to what Dick calls the CR synthesis? I've missed this. At any rate, I have some responses to various comments, some of which were made a while back--bear with me. Dick: one of your notes mentioned that what had been left out might have been the passion, that the characters were only partly alive. I definitely agree with this, and it continues my thought processes about Tony and Susan being passive reactors in their own lives. I found a passage, right when Susan and Arnold start their affair, that I found interesting in how it bears on this point: She is talking about the electricity at the dinner. "Selena the electric, altered into Susan the electric, as if Arnold were a transformer, thinking how easy to be free, what delicious things could be done in Edward's absence if you were the kind of person who did such things. Susan was not that kind. Susan was Susan...teacher..well-organized...This Susan had delicious wild thoughts full of mountains and forests and floating streams, with fish on the wing and>> birds at sea, thoughts concentric and phallic, with penis-hunting in the mists and cave exploration in the hermaphroditic clouds, but they were only thoughts, unacted, the absent underside of Susan the Good." Now, one could argue that the above passage pertains only to Susan's (at this point) unfulfilled sexual fantasies about Arnold, but I argue that this is the essence of Susan that we see throughout the book. She is so unaware of herself as a distinct entity; she sees people as "transformers." Several times during the novel, her dreaming is mentioned, where her "day Susan" is stifled and the "underworld Susan" comes up through a crack in the floor Maybe Susan would have done better to allow that other Susan to emerge more and shape more of her life; then it might have been other than this bland, passive existence. Several people mentioned the correlation between Edward's blindness and Tony's blinding. However, I think of Edward as "impotent" in his writing ability, at least up until this novel. So, I think that Susan didn't blind Edward in his writing by abandoning him, as he was already blinded in that respect. I still see the parallel, but don't see that it has anything to do with Susan's actions. Another thought for the underworld Susan; the book IS called NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, perhaps another reference to this. I'd also like to weigh in with Ruth and Dick (for the most part) on my view of Susan. I didn't care for her much, and although I didn't care for Tony, either, at least my not caring for him was a more striking feeling. She was just all mush for me. Her days *were* empty, and her choices were so without consequence that I fail to see how her life can be fulfilling and gratifying for her. Now, to the rest, I *do* feel sorry for her, as I feel sorry for anyone who has gone through much of their lives living for others without also having "created" their own passionate reasons for living. There's certainly nothing wrong with being a stay-at-home mom and wife, but Susan has not expanded or grown much in the 20-odd years that I can see. For that, I pity her. This note is much too long, but I was bursting with thoughts after having read all your notes. Sarah


I'm starting to feel sorry for Susan. She's had no luck with two marriages. The first guy seems to neglect her, & he's not too hot a lover. The second guy is a hot lover, but he cheats on her. How much can one girl take? Now her ex sends her this frightening novel after all these years. Let's have a moment of silence for Susan.
Susan is as shallow as a day-care wading pool. Here is a woman who opts for big guys with big bucks; her primary concern on contemplating her husband's departure with the bimbo is keeping the retirement accounts in her name. She is so self-absorbed, her family's activities largely elude her, and she can very easily make a mental bargain with herself to forget her husband's philandering in exchange for the house and social station.
Dick in Alaska
Susan's feeling of dread was that she might learn that she made a mistake when she left Edward for Arnold. Edward might prove through his book that he really was the writer and dreamer that he said he was as a young man. Susan seemed very unhappy with Arnold because he hadn't lived up to her expectations either. Susan seems to be a "grass is always greener" person. Susan also hadn't reached her own dream of becoming a writer, and Edward beat her to it.



In Association with