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Issue 43 - A Place where men will be men

Whisky Magazine Issue 43
October 2004

 

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A Place where men will be men

Jefferson Chase on Richard Ford's bizarre hunting short story, Calling

I was stopped short by Richard Ford's short-story collection A Multitude of Sins in a bookshop in Coastal Maine when, flipping through its pages, I found the name of my home town, Pemaquid. Intrigued, I read Ford's description and had the uncanny experience of being in the same place twice at the same time.

I'm not going to talk about that story, though, but instead another one of Ford's tragic-comic tales of casual infidelity, simmering anger and
unacknowledged loss.

Calling, which is set in New Orleans, is about the aftermath of divorce. The first-person narrator, Buck McKendall, looks back upon his life as a 15 year old from a good Southern family, gone utterly dysfunctional.

His mother, soon to be dead, is living in sin with a Black jazz musician, while his father leads a new life in St. Louis with his homosexual lover.

‘How I was abandoned by my gay dad' is well above average as narrative premises go, and the situation takes a nice turn for the absurd when Buck's father phones up to invite him to go – of all things – duck hunting. Excited, Buck rises at 4am on the appointed day and gets picked up by a taxi. When he arrives, he finds his father rather strangely attired.

He pulled his topcoat apart, and I could see he was wearing a tuxedo with a pink shirt, a bright red bow tie and a pink carnation... This was not exactly duck hunting in the way I'd heard about from my school friends. My father had not even been to bed, and had been up drinking and having a good...

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