Inner Tube: A Novel
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After a family tragedy, a man chases consolation—or is it oblivion?—by traveling through some seedy locales of place and spirit
Early on in Hob Broun’s second novel, the mother of the unnamed narrator, a failed actress, commits suicide by putting her head through a television. That fact, together with our hero’s desire for his ex-girlfriend’s older sister, prompts a radical departure as he quits his job cataloging old television shows and sets off on a westward journey. Pursuing solace in unlikely places, he embarks on a string of just-as-unlikely romances, including ones with a motel maid and an archaeology professor. But can anything distract him from the painful emptiness within? In the desert, finally free of society, a self-reckoning awaits.
Bracing in its vision, Inner Tube is a fearless and often bitingly funny novel about what happens when our civilized veneers are shed.
have telephones there.” “But the geography is different, the mileage. You won’t be nearby anymore. Means nothing in practical terms, but that feeling, I don’t know, it always seemed important.” Violet breathing into the mouthpiece is like a light rain on fallen leaves. “You’re awfully sweet,” she says. “I should come and see you on my way across. I think I will. But go on now, you have to take care of your friend.” Click. I have neglected to tell you how beautiful Violet is. She knows it,
network—and I guess she just couldn’t wait. Still, that someone so corroded by the defeat of her acting career should play to an empty house—this really fit. Perhaps she satisfied herself by anticipating the impact our hideous discovery would have. But a neighbor got there first, a retired petrochemicals executive dropping by to return a belt sander. Official vehicles had gathered by the time I got home, and the mopping up was nearly over. I did not see her face charred by implosion, haloed with
currency fluctuations, rates of consumption. I read journals containing the work of speculative econometricians and slept in a moribund Ford belonging to Violet’s graduate assistant. I made daily calls to the production office to ask about auditions and kept up my energies with so much coffee it must have stained my bladder brown. From the American pulpit: The relentless man gains result, if not always reward. So, inevitably, my time arrived, like some tiny glacial shift. Violet drove me out to
annoyed, but doesn’t change her posture any. I’m stung. “Well, I see you’re not getting any thinner.” “No, I know. And now I’m reading the worst magazines. ‘Bolstering Your Style Awareness.’ Recipes with seaweed, ads for panty-liners. What do you suppose is the matter with me?” “Nothing.” “Oh, use your imagination.” “I don’t know. Random jumps? Venus envy?” For a moment she looks timid, swallowed up in tiers of videotape, a refugee in a ship’s dark hold; then her leg shoots out to kick me
hard. “Really, you’re okay. Strength to spare.” Ellen rolls her eyes, then looks away. “Have you ever wanted eminence? Ever cast yourself as a star?” “Once. At sixteen, I was going to solve the Kennedy assassination. I made charts. I did a concordance of the Warren Report.” “And?” “I got to be seventeen.” “I think it’s the biggest thing between us. That we share that ambition deficiency.” She stretches, waggles the sole of her shoe against mine. “Come on, why don’t you drive me home.” If