Saturday, February 23, 2013

Birth of a (fictional) wine blog

In this excerpt of the novel, due out next month from St. Martin's Press, the young Les Breeden finds himself in the grip of the master's wife, Puligny Montrachet, and the blogosphere:
        "That was wrong."
        "You shouldn't even be here."
        "You can shower before you leave."
       The guest bathroom, spiffy towels, rosemary-mint shampoo. Tepid water ran over his body while he tried to hold onto her in his mind. The bungee was still there, on the up-swing, tightening again although he would soon be gone and this sweet respite a memory he could already see trending bitter. He came out toweling, and remembered that his clothes were in the hallway.
       Claire held the pillow slips while he, wrapped in terrycloth, stuffed. She said, “You left a sock in the dryer,” schoolmarmy, back in her ugly smock. He went back into the guest bedroom and put on his jockey shorts, and she came abruptly in, without knocking. She sat on the bed. He reached for the clean jeans and felt a hand on the soft bump of him. Claire said, “You’re bad.”
       “We’re not doing this.”
       But she pulled his shorts down and knelt before him, adding, “This is just ridiculous.”
       They ended up together on the narrow bed, she on top, his hands full of her hips, Claire’s arms twisted above her head like a piece of lovely, tortured bonsai. He heard a sound like none other, a sort of melodious exclamation. Were those words? He was acquainted with the panoply of orgasm – howlers, mummers, catatonics – but this was entirely new.
       “You can’t stay.”
       “You’re probably hungry.”
       “I suppose we could order in.”
       The delivery guy recoiled as Les flung open the front door and plunged both hands into the big, padded envelope. Grabbing two fistfuls of paper bag, the slick white cartons with little wire handles emitting a medley of smells: pad thai, chicken with cashews, soggy veggies, something on skewers.
       They attacked them at the desk, across from each other as before, he ravenous, she controlled but persistent. The feast moved as if by prearrangement to the floor, kilim as table cloth, fingers as serving utensils, Claire politely excusing herself and going into the kitchen and returning with a golden, sweating bottle he recognized from the label as a primo anti-Californian: Puligny Montrachet. She poured two tumblers full, raised one, and said, “Just this once.”
       "Would you like a shrimp?”

      He tried to feed her, and she bit it off down to the tail. He fed her another. She watched him shovel rice into his mouth as demurely as possible with chopsticks.
      Suddenly it was dark outside, conversation futile. Les couldn’t keep his hands off her, or his lips; she tasted of basil, and crispy orange beef. Back in the guest room, she shoved him onto the mattress and pulled off what was left of his clothes, then her own. She stood for a moment with her hands on her hips, breathing deeply, deciding something, then firmly pulled him out into the hallway, back past more notables – Tchelistcheff, de Latour, Parker, Masson, Ray - and into the master suite where the bed was vast, the white comforter like surf into which they waded.
      Again urging him down, mounting, then under him, back muscles flexed, arching her neck and forcing him to kiss her. He had a view of the valley through tall glass panels as they moved, his hands sliding from her delicate pelvis to her breasts, back again, stunned by pleasure and the spectacle of that shadowy land suffused with pale green light.
      He woke up suddenly and lay listening. The only sound was Claire delicately snoring, the comforter over her shoulders and her hip exposed. He got up, fondly kissed her ass, and pulled the comforter over it.
      Out in the kitchen, cold floor, ruins of their repast. He poured himself half a glass of Puligny-Montrachet and ran a finger around the dark interior of a paper carton. Peanut sauce. Back in the bedroom, he got her laptop from amidst photographs of her family, stolid-looking types in big collars, standing under deciduous trees. Shots of CJ, too, in foreign climes, younger, thinner. Also a piece of quartz, a buffalo carved from soapstone, a ceramic lamp from the Mediterranean, a brochure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
      He carried the computer and his glass to the divan in front of the window and powered on. The screen assumed a gibbous glow like that emanating from the dead satellite grown smaller in the western sky. He pulled up a blank page and touched the keyboard. Like one of those hot-air balloons that in a few hours would add bright pricks of pigment to a dawn sky, he levitated, words winging in from elsewhere, un-summoned, unstoppable. Moon to moon.

      Could that be the collective stench of a thousand wine opinion mongers and publicists and wannabe sommeliers pouring with sweat as they turn out a collective magnum opus of bullshit so prodigious that it threatens to destabilize the globe and send it off-orbit?
      It could. And while, dear reader, you’re searching for what’s left of your emasculated skepticism, the load has gotten heavier. Seismologists are warning – LISTEN! - of a reactivation of the San Andreas fault and the tipping of millions of gallons of vitis vinifera into the bowels of the earth. 
     You might as well watch, having nothing to lose but your subscription to that brothel serviette, The Wine Taster, and its lame imitators. You don’t need them. You’re tired of being bloviated about which wine to buy, but not who’s doing what to whom in which cellar (is that wine thief going into a cask of aging cabernet or into the proprietor’s spouse?), of lifestyle vintneramuses and celebrity auction addicts buying matched sets of jeroboams of old Dripping Creek cabernet.
All passé. Forget numerical ratings and the latest Two-Buck Fuck, forget medals. What you need is an un-sanitized, morning-after whiff of the infinitely varied, often tight-assed infiniti di vini on America’s western edge, where they’re staging the last agrarian act in that amazing, transformative, longest-running, sputtering musical, “Manifest Destiny.” And now you’ve got one! Right here!! Nose!!!
So just log on, kick back, sniff, sniff...

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