Jasper John arrives in San Diego on a broken-down Harley, ready to put a hell-raising and felonious adolescence behind him. He attends college part-time, but the employees and regulars at Fat Stanley’s Diner become his real teachers. Along the way there’s death, a good many brawls, and a valiant attempt to produce Shakespeare’s most famous love story as a pornographic film—all as Jasper struggles with what it means to be a man and find love in a world that seems to be spinning out of control.
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 1, “IN OUR OWN IMAGE”
This is no wing for an unripe wit. If these feathers flutter too swiftly for you, put this
page away, read Sports or Obits, or the gluttony of Heloise, Section E, p. 5. To such-a-
one who lingers over these antique sounds, I offer clydesdales of affection, truth, honor,
and courtesy. Answer soon, dear heart. Be virtuous of mind, no more than forty, no
fatter than fat, have a voice that reminds me of doves mourning. To you, dreamed of
love, I pledge my troth. I am SWM, 42, fading knight-errant of Lancelot gentilesse; I am
a medieval scholar questing for one last bout of Courtly Love. Write Wolfram, in care
of Adam and Eve Possibilities.
Jasper John reads the first ad on the board, smiles his appreciation, feels a kinship with Wolfram. Better than usual, this one, this knight-errant. Classy stuff Lancelot gentilesse. Fat Stanley could take a lesson there. Girls see knights in shining armor, white horses. Rescue. Fat Stanley could call himself Perceval—Perceval the Pure. Or better yet—Don Quixote. Hiho, Rocinante!
“Jasper! Ho, boy, over here.” The fat man beckons. Beside him is a woman in white blouse and blue skirt. Jasper is introduced to her. “This is Mary Quick. She’s going to work for us now.”
Mary Quick has tired aging eyes, Irish setter eyes. She extends a hand, holds on to Jasper as she says, “Nice to meet you.” Her voice vaguely raspy. No doubt a smoker. She’s looking at him as if she knows him.
Jasper wonders what now? He wanted Fat Stanley to hire a younger waitress this time. One that would wear a mini-skirt, chew gum, joke, flirt, liven the place a little. All Fat Stanley ever hires are women over forty. The last one was sixty-six, a real hustler, steady as could be. But she dropped dead in the middle of prime time. Place full of diners. Everyone so upset, Fat Stanley had to close down for the night. It takes Jasper a minute to recall the woman’s name. Louise Fish. Louise of the clicking teeth and tie-dyed hair. Louise of the lavish Max Factor, Fair Ivory #1 that he saw in her purse one night, along with the makings of her maroon mouth and desperately shadowed eyes. Six people came to her funeral. Six sad ones to escort you out. Brittle ivy clinging to your tombstone like the lines in your face. Is that it?
PRAISE FOR THE HOLY BOOK OF THE BEARD
“A moving meditation on the dissipation of youth and our raw need for intimacy and love.”
— NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
“Crystal-clear writing . . . . Brenna sees his larger-than-life creations with an unflinching eye, but also with measures of love.”
— WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
“Brenna is a master at capturing the helplessness of humans, particularly humans with ‘tough’ written all over them.”
— LOS ANGELES TIMES
“An artfully written, evil and eerie novel . . . . Magnificent.”
— CHICAGO TRIBUNE
“Master stylist Duff Brenna deftly portrays the comic and sinister consequences of striving to embody the American Dream.”