Paul La Farge and I used to roam up and down the mid-Hudson Valley looking for a new place to have a bite or a tipple. One overcast day, we pulled up to a bar that had a reputation for the roughness of its clientele. We could see the grizzled men within and the equally grizzled waitress tending to them, but they could also see us—two bearded Semites walking over from Paul's secondhand Saab—and suddenly the lights went out, all of them, even the neon advertising the bar. When we opened the door and entered the murk, an old cigarette-choked voice half-whispered, “We're closed.” We fled down the road to a bar that welcomed us, where we immediately accepted what had happened to us as a gift. An entire bar shut down, if momentarily, because of our bookish tread. The absurdity of the universe, even at its most hostile, could not ruffle Paul. If anything, it served as the basis for his creations, which radiated from upstate New York, as in his story “ Rosendale,” to the suburbs of Boston, in “ Another Life,” and into worlds as disparate as the strange society of lovers of H. P. Lovecraft and the life of a nineteenth-century Parisian urban planner who changed the face of Paris, but, in La Farge's retelling, died full of regret. Only a nature as unruffled but curious as he could create “ Luminous Airplanes,” on the face of it a love story between […]
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