Pearls Before Swine, Chapter 2: Swine Harder

Article by keaton

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Annalia Linnan

The elevator doors opened, and Mark and Keaton recoiled at what stood before them, instantly assuming their most intimidating kung-fu poses. Ignoring their shock, the trenchcoat- and fedora-wearing pig shuffled into the elevator, its hind quarters resounding in the silence.

“It’s not over,” the pig said in a voice unnervingly reminiscent of James Franco.

“I knew it!” Mark lowered his guard and motioned for the pig to continue.

“Your first effort at Pearls Before Swine was a boon to our cause.” The pig paused to select a floor, seemingly at random, clumsily striking three buttons at once with its hoof. “But you have no idea of the dangers facing the Pork Underground. You must continue!” With that, the elevator stopped, its doors opened, and the pig vanished down the hallway with a dramatic flip of his trenchcoat.

Mark and Keaton exchanged resolute nods. Now that they knew their epic quest to eat delicious BBQ and read every New Directions Pearl would have another chapter, there was only one thing left to do.

“Keaton,” Mark said, staring down the hallway as the elevator doors closed yet again, sealing the two within. “We're gonna need more napkins.”

The Swine: Demeris Bar-B-Q
The Pearl: THE RED NOTEBOOK by Paul Auster, in which a beloved American novelist tells us true stories—or are they false truths?—about strange coincidences in his life, thus exploring broader ideas of fate and chance in the world

The Red Notebook By Paul Auster Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9780811220972
Availability: OUT OF PRINT - Not Available for Order
Published: New Directions - July 16th, 2013

Mark: So, you’d never read Auster before. What was your impression? Did you enjoy it?

Keaton: I very much enjoyed it. I came away with the feeling that I would like him as a person. He seems very cool.

Mark: Doesn’t he? Cool, smart, cordial. I mean, the stories in this book are very conversational. And I feel like the theme running throughout them is chance, or coincidence.

Keaton: Coincidence for sure. But also memory and relationships—friendly and romantic. Those three things seem to factor into every piece in the book.

Mark: I’m glad you mentioned memory because one part I remember—it was striking—is when he tells the story about being a little boy and saving a girl’s life by pulling her away from a car. Auster thinks this might have been his finest hour, you know? And he sees her twenty years later and brings it up—but she has no memory of it.

Keaton: It’s a very good representation of how two different people experience the same event differently. And the story that’s just heartbreaking to me is when Auster meets Willie Mays but doesn’t have a pencil, so he can’t get an autograph. But I love that he ties this back to his origins as a writer, because he carries a pencil with him everywhere after that.

Mark: Yes, he writes, “If nothing else, the years have taught me this: if there’s a pencil in your pocket, there’s a good chance that one day you’ll feel tempted to start using it.”

Keaton: But I mean, yeah, he’s a totally likable writer. This book is just a delightful collection of quirky, oddball, slice-of-life fiction—profound in many ways, yet subtle. It’s very conversational, very matter-of-fact. No frills.

Mark: It makes you feel like the world is actually kind of a magical place, you know?

Keaton: So much so that I caught myself going back to whether the stories were true or not. The coincidences that it brings up—some of them, whether it’s a friend all of a sudden finding his estranged father right before his death and starting a relationship, or the spooky coincidence of the letter that somebody else with Auster’s name wrote and everything— I find myself wondering how much of that is actually true, because there are such amazing coincidences.

Mark: Yeah, like could that much happen to one person?

Keaton: I also found myself being kinda jealous of Auster. [Laughs] He has such an interesting life.

Mark: Yeah. [Laughs]

Keaton: Sometimes the coincidences aren’t necessarily real; they maybe happen in his head. Like with the dime story, when his ex-wife [Lydia Davis] throws him a dime for some reason, and he drops it and loses it. And then later, at Shea Stadium—all the way across the city—he sees another dime on the sidewalk, and he’s convinced it’s the same dime.

Mark: So in a way, it’s almost like he’s projecting something meaningful onto nothing.

Keaton: Yeah, so I guess—I don’t know, it’s more subjective.

Mark: That’s a good point.

Keaton: Well, we gotta give a shout out to where we are: Demeris, a local barbeque institution here in Houston.

Mark: I have a pulled pork sandwich...

Keaton: ...and my two meats, ribs and ham, are delicious.

Mark: Excellent.

Keaton: What are we gonna read next time?

Mark: I say Javier Marías’ BAD NATURE, OR WITH ELVIS IN MEXICO. It’s fun, it’s weird. You know, Mexico, Elvis, 1970s.

Keaton: And you’re going to Mexico City, so it’ll be a nice way to get you pumped for your trip.

Mark: Exactly! Okay. See you next time!

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