My Face for the World to See (New York Review Books Classics)
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Alfred Hayes is one of the secret masters of the twentieth century novel, a journalist and scriptwriter and poet who possessed an immaculate ear and who wrote with razorsharp intelligence about passion and its payback.
My Face for the World to See is set in Hollywood, where the tonic for anonymity is fame and you’re only as real as your image. At a party, the narrator, a screenwriter, rescues a young woman who staggers with drunken determination into the Pacific. He is living far from his wife in New York and long ago shed any illusions about the value of his work. He just wants to be left alone. And yet without really meaning to, he gets involved with the young woman, who has, it seems, no illusions about love, especially with married men. She’s a survivor, even if her beauty is a little battered from years of not quite making it in the pictures. She’s just like him, he thinks, and as their casual relationship takes on an increasingly troubled and destructive intensity, it seems that might just be true, only not in the way he supposes.
inflict on her the rigors and the pain and the privation which went with so difficult an accomplishment as being an actress. She would, if they were on location, and the film was a jungle film, or a particularly realistic Western, where she would be called on to ride or scale a cliff or to be injured by the heavy’s spur, have to be ready to endure pain at least equal to what the dentist, who was surely in their employ since they preferred professional men, was now, with the whirring drill,
exhaustion after love. She was in the bed as she would be in a ditch or a field. She slept like someone who could not go any further and had already come too far. I stretched myself out beside her, a stranger, a spy, sharing the warmth of the bed. Morning seemed immeasurably far. But then the man falls asleep and when he wakes up the girl is gone. At six o’clock she got up, dressed, and walked the streets searching for a taxi. This seems like another facet of her neurosis, and later the man
it should have been. He would be nettled, then, the man on the phone, and somewhat sharper. “It was a bit stupid, you know. I’d have taken you home if you’d wanted so much to go. Did you get a taxi?” “Yes.” “Where?” “I walked until I found one.” In the early morning; damp, uncomfortable; with the street gray. I saw her looking for the difficult taxi. My God, it must have been six o’clock. She supposed so; about six, yes. And out of a warm bed; and without coffee; and no good-by. It was
cautiously opened. Charlie was only doing, in the circumstance, what in his own lexicon had to be done. He was rendering me a service in the only way he knew. Yet it was a service that would bind me, wouldn’t it? I’d be, where I had not been before, or thought I was not before, in his debt, in Charlie’s debt, and by extension in debt to all of them. I had only to call the police and there would be no debt, and yet I knew that I couldn’t call the police. I did not have to stoop to lift her and
good doctor, the two ties with which I had so clumsily bound her, the inexpert tourniquets. Suppose she died? What would I confront in the morning if she should die? She had come to town after whatever it was had happened with the girl Marsha, if there’d ever been a Marsha. I wouldn’t really ever know. She’d inhabited for a while these streets; her high heels had sounded on these pavements passing the cactus gardens and the orange trees. Her smile, a bit too anxious, a bit too placating, had