Some of Us Have to Get It

REVIEW — SOME OF HAVE TO GET UP IN THE MORNING begins in a hardened-in-the-arteries mode. A housewife lives near a busy highway. Neighbors throw a party for the departure of the local thug on his way into the Marines. An unemployed father fights for the right to have his children. Daniel Scott tells these stories in a standard issue working-class shtick, using simple declarative sentences, the smug irony of none-too-bright narrators, and the catalog of dirty realistic detail found in doublewides.


However, Scott rubs our nose in the made-up quality of these stories. Characters from one scene surface at opportune moments in another like Pip running into Magwitch on a London street corner. In the fruitful coincidences of his stories, in the too-good-to-be-true plot symmetries, and in the distorted details, Scott has found a storytelling style that is artificial in the way a liar elaborates or leaves out things. At the same time the stories veer from literal possibility, they suggest that these very things could really happen and in fact are happening somewhere in America right this minute. In this way, entire stories such as the long tease of a tale, “Upside Down Hart,” about a gay man who falls in love and lust with his trashy and sexy criminal sister — who happens to be married to a petty thief who happens to have sex with men for money even though he says he is straight — revel in an ecstatic falseness. It hardly matters if this story is plausible. In this context, everything in this book makes too much sense, more sense really than anything that is merely plausible. Scott’s narrators spin their stories over lives gutted by a self-hatred that puts them into seriously dangerous, end-of-the road pickles. The very long story, “The Host” the last in the book, brings this way of telling stories to a prolonged uneasy slide. Neal, the narrator, wanders around America living off the food he can scrounge out of the refrigerators of men who take him home. As his physical condition deteriorates, the quality of his clients drops and the bars he frequents go from moodily lit, to dimly lit to unlit. Finally he ends up dependent on a physically scarred, sour milk smelling man named Meyersohn. Meyersohn lives in an orderly apartment and lives a life of self-inflicted embarrassment. He performs oddly degrading acts, like plagiarizing school textbooks for grant reports and then telling his co-workers, or holding dinner parties and inviting people who hate each other. It becomes clear to Neal that Meyersohn picking up a sick, half-starved homeless person and moving him into his apartment just plays into this man’s inexplicable urge to degrade himself. But as bad as it gets, everything continues to go on. The story, and the book too, ease into a celebration of disgrace.

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