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Throughout my novel Housebreaking the Muse, numerous short chapters provide a glimpse into the mind of Jacques Rigaut on the night of his suicide, November 5-6, 1929. The following fragment is from an early draft of one such chapter.

Rigaut

I have long been favored by visitations from oblivion, enveloped in its seductive lack, which wormed microscopic tendrils of supple ice into my pores and scalded me with the mineral terror time has ripened into organic solace. Oblivion is my white hole, the soft photonic tornado of austere flamboyance in which the moral suffocate and the damned rejoice, the monocle set into an eye socket emptied by violence and soothed by the pornography of purple sunsets. Everything I had, everything I had, everything I had. A thousand souvenir matchboxes, my personal fetish, each one a talisman inscribed with a moment I thought should last to kingdom come, the Boef sur la Tot blessed by a drop of what’s her name’s perfume, paper walls crushed and softened because carried for two years in the inside breast pocket of my coat, there to retrieve and pass beneath my nostrils when the world pierced my armor of oblivion; the Two Maggots, one match removed to light a cameroon lovingly seasoned in the cedar fug of a humidor liberated from the office of Tissut, the old man’s boss at Au Bon Marché; the dozens collected from Café Certa, one of which, insignificant paper urn, contains the ashes of a mud-spattered letter from Simone Kahn that had clung to me through demobilization and discharge; the crushed survivor from the Hotel Lafayette Ballroom, New York, that found its way into the disorder of the one bag I managed to drag back with me during my narcotic retreat from America. Everything I believed to be my own, everything to which I clung, all the signs, all the signs. If one word stands in for one thing, one thing can stand in for a thousand things, a thousand things for a lifetime. This is a lie that adorns itself with the pulsating halo of truth. How else explain the matchbox that whispers, like a phonograph playing in the opposite wing of the Cecil Stewart’s Long Island mansion, with the arresting, hoarse laughter of a sleek duchess reclining on the polished deck of Aristotle’s yacht as we swept over the Sound, still in our wrinkled evening clothes and boozy from the night before.

All of which cannot erase the fact I’ve stowed a folded rubber sheet beneath my bed. I’ll use it tonight to save the it from absolute ruin, though I suppose the bullet will pass through and pull a bit of me through the wound ….

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