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Portrait of Jacques Rigaut by Man Ray

The following is a draft excerpt from my novel in progress, Housebreaking the Muse. The novel is haunted by the character of Jacques Rigaut, the French dadaist, gigolo, drug addict, dandy, and suicide. At irregular intervals throughout the novel, we listen in on the interior monologue of Rigaut on the the night of his suicide. This is one such passage.

Jacques Rigaut

Whatever it has been, I’m convinced my life has always implied another life, or even lives, other incarnations, which might explain my fetishizing of the mirror. I smile, now, to think how inescapably Lord Patchogue implied Jacques Rigaut, the name my friends continued to use for me in spite of the gilt calling cards I’d had printed up. But which Jacques Rigaut? And just how much had my alias, and the door I left ever open to the character of Lord Patchogue, made of me a new man? I believed myself completely transformed because convinced the other I implied was alive within me. Naïve! Sad! Desperate! Still, I like to think somewhere Lord Patchogue strolls along a seawall admiring the orange flame of sunset sweeping across a bay bearing any name but Oyster. When he holds a mirror to his face, he creates a work of art. When he breaks the mirror and holds it to his face, he creates a more profound work of art and one pregnant with the charm of curse. Were I to return to New York, I’m sure my friends there would see a Lord Patchogue in the face of their old buddy Jacques, but that would only be a memory Jacques inspires. It’s true that others, strangers, might also see a Lord Patchogue peering out at them behind red eyes tired from all that seeing. It’s all taking place somewhere. All the facets of JR reflect back at me, reflect off of me only to be returned in infinite multiplicity. Madcap adventurer of the alcoholic night; rampant seducer of lithe actress and wealthy grande dame alike; dandy fond of rolling dice; husband who injected himself with heroin in plain sight of the step kids; the chap who lurks among the Certa shadows whom we wish would say more; Man Ray’s half-assed interpreter; that barely competent secretary to Monsieur Blanche; Frog junkie known to haunt the Minetta Street twilight; my lunatic son; le plus Dada des Dadas; poor Jaques…. And, of course, the infinite implies nothing, which is what I am, a point demonstrated by all of these different ways people have read me. All of them are right to a lesser degree. All are wrong to a greater degree. Which is to say as a work of art my life has been both an embarrassing catastrophe and resounding success. But doesn’t this very conclusion imply it’s all just a great game and, after all, that there has only ever been this one Jacques Rigaut, the one I’ve inhabited all along? And so I never did cross over to the other side of the mirror, despite my claims to the contrary. But even Jacques Rigaut should allow himself literary license–should he not, my Coco?

 

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