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Issue 71 - Tales from the noose

Whisky Magazine Issue 71
April 2008

 

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Tales from the noose

If you want to find weirdness in America, a good place to start looking is at the fringes – the panhandles, promontories and peninsulas only tenuously connected to the rest of the US. I should know. I grew up on one.

That's perhaps why I was a sucker for Denis Johnson's 1991 novel Resuscitation of a Hanged Man, which takes place on that curled stretch of strangeness, Cape Cod.

The novel opens with a young ex-medicalequipment- salesman, Leonard English, looking for a new beginning after a half-hearted suicide attempt. It doesn't go well. He gets bombed in a bar and tries to drive to home.

Somehow his Volkswagen had climbed up onto a traffic island. The whole thing would have been embarrassing, but he couldn't form any clear picture of what had happened.

Blood ran down his forehead and blinded half his sight. The air reeked: the tank was ripped and twenty dollars' worth of gasoline covered the asphalt. In his imagination it burst into flames. A cabdriver stopped and came to stand beside him and said, “You made a wrong turn.” Eventually English does arrive where he's heading, the Cape's largest hamlet Provincetown.

There, the Kansas native is astonished to discover that most of the residents are gay.

And he takes up a fairly bizarre job, working two graveyard shifts a week as a classical music DJ while spending the rest of his time as a private detective.

His first assignment is to tail a woman suspected of cheating on her lesbian lover into a night club.

English's...

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