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The Ruins

Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    The Ruins
    Book Description:

    Set among the spinning cogs and wheels of a lavish dinner club for the "gastronomical Elect," The Ruins is a black-eyed, Machiavellian fairy tale for adults, a gleeful cautionary discourse on ambition and ingratitude, and the penalties for disbelief in those forces within oneself. Like all fairy tales, it turns on subjection-the increasingly comic and catastrophic subjection of "our hero, Tom," a high-minded and half-starved shoeshine boy. Tom shifts for himself in a dank and vaguely apocalyptic city where "the days come and go in a flat, lurid tide, noon and midnight like sullen twins, so indifferently does light distinguish itself from darkness." Easily enticed from the artless squalor of his past into the dazzling and treacherous table politics of TheRuins, our hero soon finds himself at escalating odds with the diabolical proprietor, Jones, "an extravagant if charismatic crackpot." Tom's ill-fated efforts to reform The Ruins-finally and improbably rewarded at the glittering Fool's Ball-lead him on a devastating rise and illustrious tumble to humility, humanity, and practical grace. In the tradition of Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut, Trace Farrell delivers this highly original first novel with the arch rhetoric and insinuating charm of a seasoned carnival barker. Slyly drawing the eye to a world teeming with life, after all, no more horrid than gorgeous, The Ruins marks the arrival of a major new literary talent.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2883-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
    (pp. [ix]-[x])
  3. CHAPTER ONE In Which Our Hero’s Knees—Dicey, a Hazard in the Best of Times—Have Never Been Worse …
    (pp. 1-45)

    Tom grunts like a girl as he hurdles a black-spotted sow barreling straight for him down the narrow cobbled lane … swerves violently round two roaring guttersnipes, hung like hams from the big red fists of a leering police matron … vaults a row of battered metal folding chairs laid out with bundles of colored wire, used computer geegaws and papers of rusted needles—lands hard on both tender heels and whistles to cover the small involuntary cry that escapes him. He pulls up wincing, mincing like a crab. On either side two wharf hands bellow:

    “Porca madonna!”

    “Guarda! Aiee...

  4. CHAPTER TWO The Consummate Martooni
    (pp. 46-81)

    Tom crosses his legs with gloomy discretion, eyes fixed upon a mute star of light that—poised upon the bobbing black toe of one flawlessly polished shoe—struggles like a bird to keep its perch.

    Recalling the steps that brought him, howsoever uncertainly, not just to the Ruins but indeed to the coveted post ofmaître d’hôtel,Tom marvels, of course, at his lucky stars (and two glorious weeks were only the beginning). Still, he feels something, well, unreliable in the ground beneath his feet. He is oftentimes confused, even dismayed, and not naturally encouraged by an uneasy sense of...

  5. CHAPTER THREE Beauty, Truth, and a Call to First Principles
    (pp. 82-110)

    And where, oh where did that put him now? (Sternum slipping, spine aslant, hips cocked awkwardly on the edge of his seat …)

    Called on the carpet,is where we find our hero after two weeks of earnest, if inauspicious, service. Sitting in Jones’s office, the pandemonic Maisonette, that’s where! Waiting for Jones to conclude his telephone call; impatient (and who’s to say not a little fainthearted?) to determine the object of their meeting. Or perhaps he’s guessed the prognosis already, hm? And was only looking forward to a speedy confirmation of his condition? After all, our hero knows in...

  6. CHAPTER FOUR In Which Tom Is Reacquainted with Some Old Friends
    (pp. 111-132)

    Our hero took aim at his target anew, fired by the infatuation and zeal that spell success. It was not his job now, but his mission, his crusade, and like any fanatic he not only pledged himself, but labored frankly for the conversion of others. Mornings, polishing silver with his staff, he congratulated them generally, then spoke firmly,very firmly,of their obligations (“not a job at all, but a kind ofstewardship, do you see?”), and of the opportunities he saw both to advance and exalt their lot.

    “It’s more than ‘a place for everything and everything in its...

  7. CHAPTER FIVE A Real Mob Scene
    (pp. 133-152)

    Tom tugged wrathfully at his cap, folded both arms across his narrow chest and stalked through the swarming Cloud Room, cutting stern, accusing glances left and right. Indeed, it seemed that everyone had heard about the unscheduled meeting—

    Everyone but yours truly!

    As you like, but Tom knew the score:

    The Maître d’hôtel of a Modern Restaurant or a

    Great Private Concern Today

    Must Be Thoroughly Familiar with All Details,

    both Culinary and Administrative,

    in All Departments of the Establishment.

    Yes or no?

    Hunh? Bunch of yahoos—left me in the dish scull’!

    Tom knew well enough how to butt...

  8. CHAPTER SIX Tango Romantico
    (pp. 153-183)

    For two weeks following Jones’s cavalier announcement, there was a dizzying, high-strunghurry upfeeling in the air. It was a time of crass, unbridled brainstorms and calculated restraint; slavish yea-saying, exclamatory boosterism, and the swapping of gleeful, backhanded odds on the likelihood of Jones “really putting it over.”

    The opening event—a “fashion buffet”—was thrown together with breathtaking haste and virtually no promotion; alas the models (a squad of hysterically elongated, pancake-faced waifs) outnumbered those in attendance. A colossal table was laid, about the sagging edges of which the sprinkling of guests nibbled distractedly, rubbernecking the peevish designers...

  9. CHAPTER SEVEN Mortificatio
    (pp. 184-208)

    The massive front door fell to with a reverberant clang; Tom was, in a word, shattered. Outside, the air was a rancorous broth of congealed smoke and fog, desolate as a week-old pudding; but our hero flung himself into it heedlessly, his only desire toget away!from this bear garden of ridicule and betrayal.

    How dare they!

    He sputtered, swiping at fat salty tears. That’s right, how darethey!Jones was a monster, a real predator—that was one thing! But the others, the others! Unnatural, appraising as alley cats, they’d watched and laughed. After all he’d done for...

  10. CHAPTER EIGHT The Ball (About Which Please See Explanatory Remark)
    (pp. 209-226)

    Three days later our recalled hero stands tall and incontestably presentable in a freshly laundered tunic and pressed checkered trousers. Guests are expected at any moment. If young Tom waits with doughty, not to say insensible, composure, on the other hand his silver tray flashes like the rolling eye of an overwrought heifer. His hair (he considers, belligerently) is, for once, flawless.

    Tom’s return to the Ruins was unflinching and strictly business—he felt neither obligated nor inclined to enlarge upon the already prodigal drama of his leave-taking. And for once Jones, consumed by last-minute preparations for the Ball, was...

  11. CHAPTER NINE Sacrificio
    (pp. 227-255)

    There’s a fanfare of stridulant brass, a throaty, unintelligible roll of timpani, the menacing chatter of a tambourine … as the band assembles one outlandish and pretentiously deafening chord, which hovers—glowering, senseless, aggrieved—over the agreeably cringing crowd. Tom squirms and is at last allowed a perch on his knees. Indeed the Fools, for the moment, have forgotten him.

    In a flash all voices are hushed, all eyes trained upon the stage and the monumental intersection of royal blue silk. The great orchestral chord dissembles, disintegrates, but for one querulous note from the clarinet, which circulates like a pesky...

  12. CHAPTER TEN Kee-kee-kkiree! An Epilogue …
    (pp. 256-268)

    When Tom opens his eyes the first thing he sees (through an intervening screen of tousled yellow straw) is a white porcelain dinner plate, artfully cowled by a not unfamiliar white brocade napkin.

    The plate is parked on the pitched seat of a staggering three-legged stool. Tom’s sprawled across his own rumpled pallet, sneezing at the faint spores loosed by the old and moldering overhead thatch, while the morning sun maneuvers in the plastic window with the cheerful insistence of a well-intended busy-body.Kee-kee-kkiree!insists the cock in the yard, while under the table his distraught coppery hen tacks her...

    (pp. 269-270)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-271)