Monday, November 26, 2012

Spine Intact, Some Creases excerpt by Victor J Banis

To celebrate the release of the Kindle edition, the following is a brief excerpt from Spine Intact, Some Creases, the memoir of Victor J. Banis - part personal history, part gay history, some writing tips, some comments on philosophy and religion, and a few recipes for good measure by a legendary name and pioneer of gay fiction.

Spine Intact, Some Creases
Publisher: Wildside Press; 2 edition (November 1, 2012)


James Franciscus used to intone on television that “there are eight million stories in the Naked City.” With all due apologies to the Big Apple, if you want stories the small town is the place to find them. Sodom and Gomorrah were small towns, after all. How do I know that, you ask? Simple. It is not nose count that defines the small town but rather the one inescapable fact of life: everyone knows everyone else’s business. If you go back and read the Biblical story you will see that it was true in Sodom and it is no less true in Eaton, Ohio, nor ever was.

The history of Eaton comes complete with every sort of drama you could imagine and some you probably never thought of. Murders, scandals, incest, adultery, great love affairs and heart wrenching tragedy.

And Miss Ames. Miss Ames taught Social Studies—some history, some geography. Not very well, I’m afraid. She was a spinster, for reasons which I will get to in time, already old when I knew her and a bit frail. Her round face might have been cherubic but for the unfortunate fact of her whiskers. We laughed at those, particularly when, as sometimes happened, she would be unaware of the lint that had been caught in them. Children are cruel and I am afraid we lived up (or down) to that truism. It is a major step in growing up when you come to find that you are ashamed of the thoughtless hurt you inflicted on others when you were young. Some people never get to that regret. Some never even get to the awareness of it. Saddest of all, some never stop inflicting it.

Still, though we were sometimes cruel we were fond of the old dear in our childish fashion and tolerant of her foibles. Hers was a sad story in a romantic, Victorian way. Long years before Miss Ames’ younger brother had vanished. Just disappeared, leaving behind a wife and daughter. And a sister, obviously.

Some thought him dead. Others theorized that he had been a victim of amnesia or had been shanghaied in some foreign port. Or perhaps there had been some secret, shameful act that had made it impossible for him to face those who loved him. We knew only that he was gone.

I hardly knew the wife and daughter and how they responded to this strange disappearance I cannot say. But all of us were aware of Miss Ames’ grief and her determination to solve the mystery.

It was for this reason that Miss Ames had never married, for her entire life had been devoted for several decades to searching for her brother. Her every penny, her every free hour, was spent
in her search. She traveled often, following up any clue or hint, however tenuous, however distant. She read police reports, spent hours poring over old newspapers from throughout the country, even from foreign lands. An unidentified body, a wandering vagrant who could not remember his name, put her on a bus or a train, to New York, to Florida, to California. There were detectives, paid for with her scant earnings as a teacher. Phone calls, telegraphs, letters.

The years passed. The young, once pretty sister became an adult, the marriageable young woman became a spinster, the spinster an old, frail lady brushing lint from her whiskered chin and pretending not to hear her students snicker.

We watched her come and go. It was a romantic story, one of family devotion and untiring faith, doomed, it seemed, to have no end.

But end it did, though it was not Miss Ames’ tireless efforts that brought it to conclusion. Rather it was the sudden, astonishing return of her errant brother and the even more astonishing explanation for his long absence. There was, it seemed, no tragedy, no mystery, no thrilling saga to impart. He had simply gone off, following his own restless spirit, and never thought to get in touch nor to return until his wife was gone, his daughter grown, his sister near the end of a long, fruitless life.

She welcomed the prodigal home, of course. How could she not, while the whole town watched, and for a brief time they could be seen together, brother and sister, daughter sometimes as well, chatting in low voices as they sat on her porch or strolled the town’s streets in the twilight.

What did they speak of, one wondered? Did she berate him for his neglect? Did she speak in aggrieved tones of the trips, the search, the money and, oh, the years, the lost, long years, gone like the sunset fading into the darkening sky?

Did he regale her with tales of his adventures in distant lands, of long treks along dusty roads, of flights in balloons and flights of fancy, of villains and heroes and saints and great, great loves? Did they laugh together, cry together, argue, coax, plead, explain, pray?

She died not long after his return, perhaps bereft of her reason for living, and he drifted away once again, this time to be unmourned, unsought, undreamed of on long summer evenings.

Not a grand story, you understand, not the stuff of operas nor even of novels. In a big city, in New York or San Francisco or New Orleans, the years might have passed, the comings and going, all unnoticed, hers a lonely woman’s private pain.

It was a small town thing.

For another excerpt from Spine Intact, Some Creases see the blog entry for March 20, 2008.
To purchase the Kindle edition from Amazon, click


Rick Reed said...

Gorgeous! Reminds me of WINESBURG, OHIO. And I have been to Eaton, having gone to school near there.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

I have the original big book, and you have to be seated when reading it, but a Kindle might be better for today's readers. Hope you do well, which I'm sure you will!

Victor J. Banis said...

Rick, thank you, high praise indeed. The real-life Winesburg was Camden Ohio, just down the road from Eaton.

AlanChinWriter said...

Beautifully written, and a joy to read. I will put this on my tbr list, even though I don't own a Kindle.

C. Zampa said...

Wonderful, Victor.
I've wanted to read this book for a long time. I'm so happy it's available in this format now.

Lloyd Meeker said...

A master storyteller's spell, without doubt -- cast without warning, without anything but the most mundane information -- yet gripping, full of mystery, and something that resonates at those levels where we are less defended, in spite of our sophistication. Thanks, Victor!