‘Virtue’ by Hermione Hoby: An Excerpt


[ Return to the review of “Virtue.” ]

That was eleven years ago. By that I mean a thousand or so, because back then, of course, I had no idea that we were before. My pathetic twenty-third birthday and the Technicolour year that followed—the color-saturated, abundantly lit time of twin movie stars Paula and Jason, who for a moment were truly nothing but my life—all seem so. now some discontinued movie was in stock. I think people who were once more real to you than life itself are finally starting to feel like stock photography models in a collection of well-framed shots that were once imprinted on your impressionable brain.

But that November, I had just arrived in town, with a few friends, or at least no one I wanted to eat turkey or a birthday cake with. After Dartmouth, the least impressive of the vines, I was anxious enough to delay my adulthood long enough to spend the last year of school in Oxford; here my voice was colored by the rounded vowels of British mercenary youth; he paid attention to me and even kind of fetishized me for who I am. a bloody Yank. During my first months in Manhattan, I was often mistaken for a British immigrant. When a cashier or barista asked where I was from, I usually agreed with strangers, muttering the “London” lie with a shy smile. Actually, my hometown was Broomfield, Colorado, a new swarm of prefab-looking housing developments squatting on flat, treeless land in an area that is neither Denver nor Boulder and is distinguished only by its in-between. If I could give you a defining snapshot of my adolescence, it would look like this: I’m lying in my bed, downstairs the flat screen is exploding, and the little Morrissey living in my head sings sadly: “And live when you want, how do you start?”

When the handsome Oxford boys heard that I was from Colorado, some excitedly talked about their trips to Aspen or Vail, or the less knowledgeable would mention the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, and I smiled vaguely and changed the subject because I knew it was going to happen. Embarrass them when they find out I’m poor enough to never tie my feet to skis and never even take a trip to Arizona. I was an only child, a fat ex-boy, the son of a dental nurse named Kimberly, and a side business for Etsy, which made customized wedding cake toppers out of modeling clay. So on our window sills we had smug little round-faced figures with miniature button eyes, and our little house smelled of their cooking fumes, which made me—obviously, unacceptably—think of the Holocaust.

[ Return to the review of “Virtue.” ]

My mother’s life was swamped with a landslide, most notably my father’s departure a few weeks after my pregnancy. So nineteen years before I decided to leave him at Broomfield, I renounced all future responsibility for his grief. He named me Luke. I became Luca the day I arrived in Oxford.

Twenty-three is too young for basically anything. There was a boy at Oxford who either fell in love with me a little or fell a little in love with me. (He once left a bunch of printed poems under my dorm door door – Cavafy, O’Hara, Miguel Hernández.) His father was old friends with an editor in New York, and so, with embarrassing passivity, I let the poor boy edit my cover letter – and Edit I’m talking about rewriting – and before I know it, I got an undeserved nine-month internship at a fancy American literary magazine quarterly from 1923 that publishes fiction by famous authors, reviews of important books. , and interviews with the literary elite. Their covers were striking enough to be found as framed prints. I would never have read that thing. In other words, even though it turned out I had a lot of friends, I was fake.


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