Calgary: Brindle & Glass, April 2006 (trade paper).
The third volume of the Difficulty at the Beginning quartet finds John Dupre fat and depressed, living at home in Raysburg during the stinking hot summer of 1965, waiting to be drafted as America slides into war.
This book is based on an unpublished short story (now housed in the archives at the University of British Columbia library) that I wrote in the early 1970s; I kept the original title—Lyndon Johnson and the Majorettes—rewrote the story, added many new elements to it, and expanded it to approximately five times its original length. As I was writing it, I felt that it was as much a long poem as it was a short novel. References to T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land were always present in the earliest drafts. Playing with literary devices that were all the rage when John was in university, I amplified the relationship between Eliot’s text and mine, but I tried to do so in a way that was unobtrusive. I offer my efforts in the same spirit with which John offers his toast to Eliot: “Here’s to you, master of the mug’s game.”
Zoë met us at the door. She’d long ago stopped wearing Cassandra’s clothes, and she’d never had Cassandra’s taste. Her hair had been set and brushed into a swingy teenage pageboy with bangs that met her eyebrows; she wore the kind of simple little dress the fashion mags were calling a “skimmer” and, to complete the Young London Look, white go-go boots fetched down from Pittsburgh in the spring—her pride and joy. “Real kid,” she’d told us, “not this plastic junk that’s showing up in town now.”
Looking at her, I found myself generating a mad conceit: strange the inevitability of process in America. Back when our presence in Vietnam had been “advisory,” my Hollywood drugstore starlet must have bought her go-go boots in England or France, and God knows how much she’d paid for them; last winter when U.S. bombers first began to pound North Vietnam, the boots (by Herbert Levine) were advertised in Vogue for a hundred and fifty dollars a pair; by March, when we sent in the Marines, you could, like Zoë, buy them at Bergdorf Goodman’s for fifty bucks; by summer, we had seventy thousand U.S. personnel in Vietnam, were flying over six hundred bombing sorties a week over the north, and go-go boots could be had at Sears for $10.95; now Johnson was talking of increasing our commitment to a hundred and twenty-five thousand men, and every girl in town looked like a majorette. I RIDE FROM TEXAS ON A BIG WHITE HORSE. “Ah, Zoë,” Revington was saying in his best Gregory Peck manner, “you look stunning, as usual.”
Excerpt from Lyndon Johnson and the Majorettes, ©Keith Maillard, 2006