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3 Beaverton Literature- A to Z
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Flesh and Blood


Flesh and Blood Cover





Constantine, eight years old, was working in his father's garden and thinkingabout his own garden, a square of powdered granite he had staked out and combedinto rows at the top of his family's land. First he weeded his father's bean rowsand then he crawled among the gnarls and snags of his father's vineyard, tyingerrant tendrils back to the stakes with rough brown cord that was to his mind theexact color and texture of righteous, doomed effort. When his father talked about"working ourselves to death to keep ourselves alive," Constantine imagined thiscord, coarse and strong and drab, electric with stray hairs of its own, wrappingthe world up into an awkward parcel that would not submit or stay tied, just asthe grapevines kept working themselves loose and shooting out at ecstatic,skyward angles. It was one of his jobs to train the vines, and he had come todespise and respect them for their wild insistence. The vines had a secret,tangled life, a slumbering will, but it was he, Constantine, who would suffer ifthey weren't kept staked and orderly. His father had a merciless eye that couldfind one bad straw in ten bales of good intentions.As he worked he thought of his garden, hidden away in the blare of the hilltopsun, three square feet so useless to his father's tightly bound future that theywere given over as a toy to Constantine, the youngest. The earth in his gardenwas little more than a quarter inch of dust caught in a declivity of rock, but hewould draw fruit from it by determination and work, the push of his own will.From his mother's kitchen he had spirited dozens of seeds, the odd ones thatstuck to the knife or fell on the floor no matter how carefully she checkedherself for the sin of waste. His garden lay high on a crown of scorched rockwhere no one bothered to go; if it produced he could tend the crop withouttelling anyone. He could wait until harvest time and descend triumphantly,carrying an eggplant or a pepper, perhaps a tomato. He could walk through theautumn dusk to the house where his mother would be laying out supper for hisfather and brothers. The light would be at his back, hammered and golden. Itwould cut into the dimness of the kitchen as he threw open the door. His motherand father and brothers would look at him, the runt, of whom so little wasexpected. When he stood in the vineyard looking down at the world — the ruins ofthe Papandreous' farm, the Kalamata Company's olive groves, the remote shimmer oftown — he thought of climbing the rocks one day to find green shoots pushingthrough his patch of dust. The priest counseled that miracles were the result ofdiligence and blind faith. He was faithful.And he was diligent. Every day he took his ration of water, drank half, andsprinkled half over his seeds. That was easy, but he needed better soil as well.The pants sewn by his mother had no pockets, and it would be impossible to stealhandfuls of dirt from his father's garden and climb with them past the goats'shed and across the curving face of the rock without being detected. So he stolethe only way he could, by bending over every evening at the end of the workday,as if tying down one last low vine, and filling his mouth with earth. The soilhad a heady, fecal taste; a darkness on his tongue that was at once revolting andstrangely, dangerously delicious. With his mouth full he made his way up thesteep yard to the rocks. There was not much risk, even if he passed his father orone of his brothers. They were used to him not speaking. They believed he wassilent because his thoughts were simple. In fact, he kept quiet because he fearedmistakes. The world was made of mistakes, a thorny tangle, and no amount of cord,however fastidiously tied, could bind them all down. Punishment waitedeverywhere. It was wiser not to speak. Every evening he walked in his customarysilence past whatever brothers might still be at work among the goats, holdinghis cheeks in so no one would guess his mouth was full. As he crossed the yardand ascended the rocks he struggled not to swallow but inevitably he did, andsome of the dirt sifted down his throat, reinfecting him with its pungent blacktaste. The dirt was threaded with goat dung, and his eyes watered. Still, by thetime he reached the top, there remained a fair-sized ball of wet earth to spitinto his palm. Quickly then, fearful that one of his brothers might have followedto tease him, he worked the handful of soil into his miniature garden. It wasdrenched with his saliva. He massaged it in and thought of his mother, who forgotto look at him because her own life held too many troubles for her to watch. Hethought of her carrying food to his ravenous, shouting brothers. He thought ofhow her face would look as he came through the door one harvest evening. He wouldstand in the bent, dusty light before his surprised family. Then he would walk upto the table and lay out what he'd brought: a pepper, an eggplant, a tomato.

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

loves2manybooks, October 1, 2006 (view all comments by loves2manybooks)
I loved this book - I could not put it down from the moment I started reading. I also recommend A Home at the End of the World.
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Product Details

Cunningham, Michael
New York :
General Fiction
General Fiction
Edition Description:
Series Volume:
v. 3
Publication Date:
May 1996
Grade Level:
8.01x5.25x1.07 in. .88 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Gay and Lesbian » Fiction and Poetry » Men's Fiction
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Flesh and Blood Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.95 In Stock
Product details 480 pages Touchstone Books - English 9780684874319 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Thoroughly realized action, vivid character delineation, and the splendid control of language guarantee both the unity and powerful impact of this successful novel by the author of A Home at the End of the World. Very highly recommended."
"Review" by , "Cunningham, in a remarkable performance, inhabits the psyche of each of his striking characters as they find themselves in one surprising situation after another."
"Review" by , "A wonderful... sprawling, old-fashioned novel."
"Review" by , "Michael Cunningham is a writer possessed of a contemplative, grieving, empathetic consciouness, utterly unique in contemporary fiction.... A very great gift from a greatly gifted writer."
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