Ira Sher Singer

ISBN 13: 9780151014132

Singer

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9780151014132: Singer

Against the backdrop of the Singer Sewing Company, a novel of phobias, obsessions, a string of motel fires, and a troubled friendship In the early 1980s,Milton Menger, a wealthy art dealer living in New Jersey, is called by an estranged friend, Charles Trembleman, with whom he’s had no contact in years. Charley is a traveling salesman for the Singer Sewing Company and his hands have just been badly burned in a motel fire near Memphis.He needs a driver so he can continue traveling and selling.Milty rises to the occasion.Together they embark on a journey across the South, visiting showrooms and staying in locally owned motels. Is it a coincidence that these motels keep going up in flames?
With a DeLillo-like nostalgia for Americana, combined with the dark humor of a Coen brothers film, Ira Sher’s storytelling draws the reader in like a moth to the flame.

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About the Author:

IRA SHER is the author of Gentlemen of Space:A Novel. His short fiction has been published in journals including the Chicago Review and the Gettysburg Review and broadcast on This American Life. He has been honored as a finalist for the Pushcart Prize and The Best American Mystery Stories.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

DID YOU EVER HAVE A FRIEND? Someone you knew, while likely never admitting as much, that you’d meet in whatever capacity he was willing to extend himself? From whom any request might become an invitation? It’s wonderful, that request in whatever form it comes. And in my case the request arrived, literally, as a call for help:
     It’s Charley.” A pause, a tumble of thoughts compressed to a space the width between two words. A diamond in a hill of coal. Charley Trembleman.” And then a cough, as I collected his voice out of the snowy night. I’ve had an accident, Milty. Do you mind coming down here? Do you mind coming down to help me straighten things out?”
     I forget what immediately followed, exactly or approximately what was said, but everything was there, really, in those first words. For though I, too, paused and reflected in my lamp-lit living room in dark New Jersey, it is no small thing to be chosen from among a man’s many friends to aid him in his time of need; and the request was wonderful, the sort of request I myself would have found impossible: to rely on someone so entirely, and to tell him. I would be certain, in advance, that he’d say no. I was envious, and I felt again how little I understood Charles.
     It strikes me, too, how little of Charles’s situation I understood when I flew to Memphis only that he’d been burned in a motel fire; that he needed, specifically, someone to drive him around, because his job with the Singer Sewing Company required that he endlessly travel or so he’d explained from his bed in the cinder-block infirmary where I found him slumped twenty-four hours later, hands bandaged, wearing one of his late-model cotton suits and resembling a colonial governor under benevolent house arrest. The walls perspired in the chill air. Someone was raving down the hall. I was unprepared for the relief, frightening in its intensity, that resided in those hands that took mine; and then an awkward silence descended.
     If I recall correctly, I’d told Charles I could join him for a week, two if necessary. As we drove south, he beside me, chain-smoking and watching Memphis bare, taxonomical, and dreaming in the February sun I thought of how he’d kissed a nurse upon her sanitary fingers as we left. She’d laughed, but hadn’t taken away her hand. He’d fumbled from the room like a drunken man, addled that was the thing, because I’d never known Charles to be addled. For a moment I hadn’t recognized him, and then, for a while, I failed in various small ways to recognize the man I knew. Despite this, some part of me felt we knew each other well enough that we didn’t need to go through those preliminaries that normally attend a reunion. If only that part weren’t struggling dimly with another, less-celebrated region, which couldn’t help but feel he thought I had nothing else to do.
     The truth is, even now I have few obligations awaiting my return: I have no job as such, being of independent means; moreover, I was, just then, at ends in my life. I’d been half expecting another call when Charles found me. Hearing his voice freighted with the intervals of painkiller, I understood for no reason but the accumulated certainty of a week that the other call wasn’t coming.I’ve begun learning to sew, after acquiring a sewing machine a Singer, naturally, the 221 1 a portable electric nicknamed the Featherweight” by a generation of presumably brawnier Americans, and probably the largest-selling home machine ever manufactured by that company. With its primitive outboard motor and bulbous, hooded light hovering beside the lacquer-black body, it looks like a model of a steam engine an enormous-gauge toy with gold filigree and an embossed plate upon its front and it had belonged previously to Charles.
     I feel I should mention at the outset that while I’ve enjoyed studying the machine and pressing my foot on the rubberized treadle that drives the needle up and down in its eyelet and fills the room with the smell of oil and cloth-cased wiring, I haven’t much liked sewing. I’d suspected this would be the case, and after several nights spent poring over the manual and dandling the tiny objects that make up a sewing machine’s anatomy in my less-than-delicate grasp, I’ve now confirmed my suspicions; but as has frequently, even gratuitously, been pointed out to me by my wife a nonsewer, herself quite tiny, yet a person I once grasped with some facility there are so many things I dislike; and after all, there are things we dislike that we do every day, for no other reason than because we want to.
     It was Charles who had once explained” sewing to me; and I found the essence of sewing, at least as he described it, not only plausible but appealing enough psychologically that, perceiving I’d torn the tail of my good shirt the good shirt currently in my possession and having fidgeted here in this godforsaken place for ten days with no one who might be able to help (my host is a nonsewer, while his wife suffers from a mild arthritis that discourages her continued practice), I opened the black leatherette carrying case in which the Singer was enshrined. The metal parts winked up at me. I reached in my hand and drew forth the glossy engine, placing it on the secretary by the window, where it has since remained.
     Sewing,” Charles had said, laying a newspaper across his knee and a cigarette in the pop-out ashtray of his ’79 Impala, the thought sparked, no doubt, by an article in the local gazette, is the process by which you thread together with a single strand two otherwise disparate objects. I think, Milty, this realization was what first attracted me to the business. The essence of metaphor, isn’t it?” he’d added by way of conclusion as I engaged the turn signal and smiled, unsure whether he was joking.
     In my perusal of the manual that accompanies the 221 1, it has since become clear that beyond this strict definition of sewing lie all kinds of decorative sewing methods (and attachments) that have bastardized the essential into a field of technique onanistic and little removed from typing, often instead requiring both a single object and multiple strands. But if I haven’t enjoyed sewing as much as I’d hoped, if not believed I would, I did also suspect from the outset that such generalities are ruinous. I have, for example, borrowed a typewriter from my host for typing. I can understand how Charles, fobbing himself with epistemology in the seat beside me that day, could have identified these latter-day uses of the sewing machine as the first inklings of what would eventually become its domestic decline. Perhaps even the decline of the Singer Sewing Company. Across the room from where I lie is a tall, narrow mirror that reflects in its modest ripple the stippled wall and ceiling above my head. Beside me and to the left is a second bed, scattered with a few articles, including a road atlas, and regarded by a sibling mirror, each set in a plasticated gold frame on either side of the television stand. With the window curtains drawn they’re made of fine nylon netting, embroidered with enormous, colorless flowers the room maintains an almost uniform feeling of impending rain or dusk, regardless of the hour. Upon the secretary, before the window, sits the Singer and the borrowed typewriter, and upon the television, around a photo of my wife taken during our last trip to Mexico, lean several postcards: Lost Battle Cave, GA,” The Artiste” motel, and the monotone brochure for a pile of classical idioms that constitute a nearby museum.
     In this country of encroaching roads and a mounting anxiety to remain connected, my first impression of the Idyll motel was of a place slipping away from all fellow habitation, though this is not particularly true: I know of a highway not far from here that within the hour would carry me east to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or west to Meridian, Mississippi. Given a little more time I might wander on to Louisiana, to Texas even Mexico isn’t out of the question. One need not, of course, flee so far: My point is that there’s an excitement in opening the atlas and turning to that first state Alabama, the Alphabetically Precocious State” if simply in imagining the manifold possibilities that lurk ahead. I am reminded at a glance that even the old post road running past my door would take me in little more than an hour to the museum on the brochure’s face, and I’m reminded that I should pay that elusive collection another visit. I’ve never driven that particular stretch of road, a road Charles once spoke so highly of; and there is, after all, something cheering about excursions.
     I must admit, however, to another sensation that overtakes me as my thoughts play across the prologue to my atlas the national map, ground of all journeys, map of all themes and broad arcs for grasped at once, one cannot help but comprehend a deepening mass of roads as a darkening net. Particularly in poor light. There is, as I’ve described, a small incandescent lamp on the Singer the Singerlight” positioned on the flank of the 221 1, its upper side shielded and shielding the operator with a small chrome fender. About an hour ago the bulb in the lamp burned out, and since then I’ve been shuttling back and forth between bed and typewriter, unable to sleep, unable to read the words I write, waiting for dawn to go outside and replace it. I am, you see, afraid of the dark, but one makes allowances. My room is at best dim, even during the day. At night the bathroom light trembles in the mirror above the vanity. The fluorescent in the ceiling, if you can bear it, fills the room with corpses. It’s hard to believe, sometimes, that I came here to save someone.

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Book Description HOUGHTON MIFFLIN, United States, 2009. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Against the backdrop of the Singer Sewing Company, a novel of phobias, obsessions, a string of motel fires, and a troubled friendship In the early 1980s,Milton Menger, a wealthy art dealer living in New Jersey, is called by an estranged friend, Charles Trembleman, with whom he s had no contact in years. Charley is a traveling salesman for the Singer Sewing Company and his hands have just been badly burned in a motel fire near Memphis.He needs a driver so he can continue traveling and selling.Milty rises to the occasion.Together they embark on a journey across the South, visiting showrooms and staying in locally owned motels. Is it a coincidence that these motels keep going up in flames? With a DeLillo-like nostalgia for Americana, combined with the dark humor of a Coen brothers film, Ira Sher s storytelling draws the reader in like a moth to the flame. Bookseller Inventory # FLT9780151014132

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Book Description HOUGHTON MIFFLIN, United States, 2009. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Against the backdrop of the Singer Sewing Company, a novel of phobias, obsessions, a string of motel fires, and a troubled friendship In the early 1980s,Milton Menger, a wealthy art dealer living in New Jersey, is called by an estranged friend, Charles Trembleman, with whom he s had no contact in years. Charley is a traveling salesman for the Singer Sewing Company and his hands have just been badly burned in a motel fire near Memphis.He needs a driver so he can continue traveling and selling.Milty rises to the occasion.Together they embark on a journey across the South, visiting showrooms and staying in locally owned motels. Is it a coincidence that these motels keep going up in flames? With a DeLillo-like nostalgia for Americana, combined with the dark humor of a Coen brothers film, Ira Sher s storytelling draws the reader in like a moth to the flame. Bookseller Inventory # FLT9780151014132

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