Catalogue


After /
Claire Tristram.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004.
description
194 p.
ISBN
0374103909 (hardcover : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004.
isbn
0374103909 (hardcover : alk. paper)
catalogue key
5159833
A Look Inside
First Chapter
 
1
As the anniversary of her husband’s death drew near it became clear to her that she needed to get away. His family would call that day, looking to comfort and to be comforted, and discover a woman who was not quite stable. The newspapers would also surely want a quote, some sort of quote, something to give to their readers the kind of cathartic release that only a stoic, grieving widow could provide. But she could no longer be stoic, nor grieving. Day by day, month after month, without her attending to it, her grief had subtly changed its shape, until what was left was not quite grief at all, but something she could only describe as desire. She ate with her fingers. She slept naked. Grocery boys aroused her.
At the end of this cold year she made up her mind to go away with a man. She had seen him first across a trade show floor, had seen him watching her. When they met again that night at one of those dreary-hot convention parties, he had kissed her with the weepy desire of a schoolboy. She, ready, not ready, had sent him away. Only to call him two weeks later. She gave him a date. She picked a hotel on the recommendation of her grief counselor, a place that suited her needs, on the Pacific coast, three hours away from where anyone she knew might find her. I need to get away for a while, she told her agent, who nodded and said, yes, yes, of course, I always told you that you started work too soon.
It was already dark when she reached the hotel, an old, hollowed-out place that had clearly seen better days, set on a cliff overlooking the sea lying exposed, on the headlands, a mile north of the nearest town. The parking lot was empty. She parked near the door and sat in the car, wondering vaguely if there would be a porter. When no one appeared she got out, lifted her heavy bags from the trunk by herself, and wheeled them into the lobby, a cavernous and empty space with a wooden floor, polished dark, and a great stone hearth at its center, blackened from years of use. There was no fire. The back of the lobby, toward the sea, was glass. In the cold dark of early evening the surface looked reflective, like obsidian. The wheels of her bags clattered along the wooden floor. A man at the front desk sat on a revolving stool, watching her progress in silence. He looked up and smiled broadly when she reached him, as if she had surprised him suddenly instead of clattering across the floor with her bags. He made her pay cash. She expected nothing more from him. It seemed lately that fewer and fewer places were willing to accept anything besides hard currency She took her key and thanked him, and dragged her bags through hallways that seemed to lead off in all directions until she found the door with her number on it. The room itself was clean enough. He would arrive in the morning. She sat down on the edge of the bed, suddenly fatigued. It had taken everything she had in her to get this far. Really, she was proud of herself for following through. It hadn’t been easy. But for what? She avoided looking in any of the mirrors. She looked instead at her suitcases by the door, two of them. What could she possibly have brought with her? She didn’t remember. She had no will to unpack. She showered, then sat on the bed again, this time wrapped in a towel, listening to the drip of water from the bathroom. They would be calling her. Her mother. Her sisters. Her brother-in-law. She had unplugged the answering machine. Her phone would ring on, and on, and on, and after a while the ones who had called her and received no answer would begin to call each other and ask, Where is she? What has happened?
To distract herself from these thoughts she put her clothes back on and went out of the room again, wandering about the hallways until she found the lobby again, and the dining room. The hostess was too young for her job. The hostess looked as if she were playing dress-up, wearing her mother’s dress.
“One?” the girl asked.
She nodded, and was led across the dining room, its walls wrapped in velvet curtains and with not a hint of sea view, only black reflecting back from the windows to the west. The hostess stopped at a table for six and pulled out a chair with a velvet-covered seat.
“I’ll just get a menu for you,” she said, and went away.
She sat down and looked around. There were tiny lamps on each table, their fringed shades a dingy pink. I have fallen into a film noir, she thought.
The dining room was almost empty. The only others in the room were a man in a business suit and a much younger woman who were sitting on the same side of a booth, about a dozen feet away, eating ice cream and drinking wine. They looked back at her a moment, then forgot her. The man drunkenly touched the woman’s nose with his spoon, leaving a thick spot of vanilla. He leaned over and kissed it off. The girl laughed and tried to pay him back in kind, but he held her back with a thick-fingered grasp around her wrist. He grabbed the girl’s wrists and kissed her again, this time on the mouth. The girl made a show of resisting, then capitulated. Why did she let him do that? So public. So crude. She felt herself flushing and looked away, to the aquarium near her table. One fish was missing an eye. Her hunger left her. She wanted to go. She dreaded the long walk back across the floor.
Two waiters came through swinging kitchen doors, far across the dining room, and now stood with their backs to her, folding napkins on a long table. Their voices carried over the empty room.
“My cousin says every man on the line has the same little red bumps,” the shorter one said. “No one can explain it. Little red bumps. Right here. Along the arms.”
“Some kind of rash,” the tall one said. “I heard it on the radio.”
She felt a fluttering panic begin to form in the center of her chest. Should she try to catch their attention with a cough, then gesture for a menu? To walk over to them? To go back to the room again? She should have stayed at home. She should have chosen one of the grocery boys. Not this elaborate plan that in the end would be equally sordid and pointless. Suddenly agitated, she stood up, her chair scraping the bare floor and filling the room with anxious sound. The lovers looked up from their ice cream. The waiters looked up from their napkins. She stood there and watched the shorter one make his way toward her, smiling.
“How can I help you?” he said.
She sat down again.
“I would very much like to know what the specials are tonight,” she said, and flushed at how pained she sounded, how near tears.
“Of course. The specials.”
He hurried away, back toward the kitchen. Maybe he needed to ask the cook about the specials. She sat down. The lovers in the booth rose to go. The thick-fingered man’s hand rested on the back of his young lover’s neck as they walked.
“Fuck that Cesar, fuck him,” she heard him say as he passed.
The man’s language did not match his tone, which sounded as flat and emotionless as a recorded message that had been rewound and played over and over again. He caressed the back of his lover’s neck. She watched them and wondered what to make of it. The couple passed from her sight. She looked down at the tablecloth in front of her. She touched the flatware. She had always found it difficult to know where to put her eyes when she dined alone.
The waiter returned with a menu.
“There are no specials tonight, ma’am,” he said.
She ordered a salad and some tea. The price of the salad was exorbitant but she felt a craving for fresh, raw vegetables and was willing to pay for them. As she ate she thought about kisses, and rashes. She really knew nothing at all about the man who was coming to meet her. Nothing. He had the face you might see these days in the pages of any newspaper. The deep-set eyes. The youthful, fawn-colored skin. The skin of a martyr. She tried to imagine what she would have done if her husband had tried to kiss her in the manner of her future lover, the man she would see tomorrow.
But her husband was dead, and she could not imagine it.
AFTER. Copyright @ 2004 by Claire Tristram. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address Picador, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2004-04-26:
In this tight first novel, Tristram skillfully ponders fidelity to one's self, spouse and identity in a post-9/11 world. A widow who has spent lots of television time talking about her husband's death at the hand of terrorists arranges to meet a married man at a rundown hotel, stepping into a veritable "film noir." By taking a Muslim lover on the anniversary of her husband's death, she hopes for catharsis, "to do something so unexpected, so clearly outside the role that she had been forced into by her circumstances!" The Muslim man quickly catches on and realizes "he was playing the role of a dead man. The thought fell over him as if he had discovered the truth of a great mystery and he wanted to weep." In and out of their hotel bedroom, the two hijacked lovers ground their physical acts with thoughtful reflections on true love and life. After a harsh, raw kiss, the widow tells the Muslim man, "Individuals are all the same, you know. Cut off from what they are. They are nothing at all. It's the context that matters. My husband was a Jew. Not a good Jew. But he gave up everything to acknowledge who he was. You are a Muslim. I am a widow of a Jew. That is who I am." This point is made several times in different ways over the course of the book, many times astutely, a few times improbably. After a purifying role reversal, the characters are reminded of who they are; the future is embraced. This book, raw like the characters' wounds, resonates long after the last sentence is read. (May) Forecast: Tristram's original, up-to-the-minute take on the psychological fallout of living in an era of terrorism should strike a chord with readers and reviewers. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2004-04-01:
Reading journalist Tristram's debut novel After is like looking at an Edward Hopper painting in all its anonymity, with isolated sadness and shadowy hotel rooms. Tristram has written the slim story of a young American widow whose husband was killed by Muslim extremists and the Muslim lover (he is actually Persian American) she adopts for 24 hours at a rundown hotel on the anniversary of her husband's death. No one has a name and everyone is shrouded in enigmatic fog. The title refers to the world following disaster-both personal and public-and the novel charts the repercussions and reverberations of events outside its frame, raising the question of the future after its final page. Tristram sets up a compelling psychological portrait about grieving, race, and sex that is never fully developed within its poetic minimalism. Beyond the initial shock of the situation and the couple's intense sexual encounter, it seems oddly predictable. Characters like the fat, racist man also staying at the hotel remain caricatures. Nevertheless, disappointment in the book stems from its great promise, and Tristram is clearly an author to watch. Recommended for large collections.-Prudence Peiffer, Cambridge, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
Review Quotes
Claire Tristram''s After is as disturbing, challenging and subversive a debut novel as I have read in many years. Here''s a very cunning, fearless writer, full of promise and surprise.
"Claire Tristram's After is as disturbing, challenging and subversive a debut novel as I have read in many years. Here's a very cunning, fearless writer, full of promise and surprise." --Jim Crace
"Claire Tristram's Afteris as disturbing, challenging and subversive a debut novel as I have read in many years. Here's a very cunning, fearless writer, full of promise and surprise." --Jim Crace
"Claire Tristram'sAfteris as disturbing, challenging and subversive a debut novel as I have read in many years. Here's a very cunning, fearless writer, full of promise and surprise." --Jim Crace
Claire Tristram's After is as disturbing, challenging and subversive a debut novel as I have read in many years. Here's a very cunning, fearless writer, full of promise and surprise.
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Booklist, April 2004
Library Journal, April 2004
Publishers Weekly, April 2004
New York Times Book Review, May 2004
San Francisco Chronicle, May 2004
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Afteris a stunning debut about an intense erotic affair that takes place over one twenty-four hour period. The woman is unnamed. The time is unspecified. The place is a motel somewhere in California. She is a widow, and it has been one year since her husband's death at the hands of Muslim extremists. She has decided, on the basis of a chance encounter, to take a Muslim lover. He is courtly, solicitous, understanding, and understandably nervous. He is married and has two daughters. She has had no lover since her husband's death. Their graphically recounted affair is passionate and disturbing, and it veers into violence. How can desire so quickly transmogrify into hate? How does prejudice contaminate belief? Can grief ever be expunged? Can we purify ourselves of our pasts, redeem ourselves for the future, or are we consigned to a vicious cycle of recrimination and revenge? A mesmerizing work of fiction that has the commercial appeal of Josephine Hart's Damage but which displays the cool control of Jim Crace and Michael Ondaatje,Afteris a riveting story of universal appeal, a timeless tale for the way we live now.
Unpaid Annotation
The thin line between love and hate is stretched to the limit in this mesmerizing fiction debut about an intense, erotic affair that veers into violence.
Main Description
Afteris a stunning debut about an intense erotic affair that takes place over one twenty-four hour period. The woman is unnamed. The time is unspecified. The place is a motel somewhere in California. She is a widow, and it has been one year since her husband's death at the hands of Muslim extremists. She has decided, on the basis of a chance encounter, to take a Muslim lover. He is courtly, solicitous, understanding, and understandably nervous. He is married and has two daughters. She has had no lover since her husband's death. Their graphically recounted affair is passionate and disturbing, and it veers into violence. How can desire so quickly transmogrify into hate? How does prejudice contaminate belief? Can grief ever be expunged? Can we purify ourselves of our pasts, redeem ourselves for the future, or are we consigned to a vicious cycle of recrimination and revenge? A mesmerizing work of fiction that has the commercial appeal of Josephine Hart's Damage but which displays the cool control of Jim Crace and Michael Ondaatje, Afteris a riveting story of universal appeal, a timeless tale for the way we live now.
Main Description
After is a stunning debut about an intense erotic affair that takes place over one twenty-four hour period. The woman is unnamed. The time is unspecified. The place is a motel somewhere in California. She is a widow, and it has been one year since her husband's death at the hands of Muslim extremists. She has decided, on the basis of a chance encounter, to take a Muslim lover. He is courtly, solicitous, understanding, and understandably nervous. He is married and has two daughters. She has had no lover since her husband's death. Their graphically recounted affair is passionate and disturbing, and it veers into violence. How can desire so quickly transmogrify into hate? How does prejudice contaminate belief? Can grief ever be expunged? Can we purify ourselves of our pasts, redeem ourselves for the future, or are we consigned to a vicious cycle of recrimination and revenge? A mesmerizing work of fiction that has the commercial appeal of Josephine Hart's Damage but which displays the cool control of Jim Crace and Michael Ondaatje, After is a riveting story of universal appeal, a timeless tale for the way we live now.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem