The Loved One
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Following the death of a friend, the poet and pets' mortician Dennis Barlow finds himself entering the artificial Hollywood paradise of the Whispering Glades Memorial Park. Within its golden gates, death, American-style, is wrapped up and sold like a package holiday-and Dennis gets drawn into a bizarre love triangle with Aimée Thanatogenos, a naïve Californian corpse beautician, and Mr. Joyboy, a master of the embalmer's art. Waugh's dark and savage satire on the Anglo-American cultural divide depicts a world where reputation, love, and death cost a very great deal.
caress of the rubber fingertips with which he drew the dry and colorless lips into place. And, behold! where before had been a grim line of endurance, there was now a smile. It was masterly. It needed no other touch. Mr. Joyboy stood back from his work, removed the gloves and said: “For Miss Thanatogenos.” Of recent weeks the expressions that greeted Aimée from the trolley had waxed from serenity to jubilance. Other girls had to work on faces that were stern or resigned or plumb vacant; there
“No. As a matter of fact my contract ran out three weeks ago.” “I say, did it? Well, I expect you’re glad of a rest. I know I should be.” The young man did not answer. “If you’ll take my advice, just sit easy for a time until something attractive turns up. Don’t jump at the first thing. These fellows out here respect a man who knows his own value. Most important to keep the respect of these fellows. “We limeys have a peculiar position to keep up, you know, Barlow. They may laugh at us a bit—the
among the underdogs—except in England of course. That’s understood out here, thanks to the example we’ve set. There are jobs that an Englishman just doesn’t take. “We had an unfortunate case some years ago of a very decent young fellow who came out as a scene designer. Clever chap but he went completely native—wore ready-made shoes, and a belt instead of braces, went about without a tie, ate at drugstores. Then, if you’ll believe it, he left the studio and opened a restaurant with an Italian
my own teeth. I have a future in the Non-sectarian Church. I expect to be head chaplain at Whispering Glades when Mr. Joyboy is still swilling out corpses. I have the makings of a great preacher—something in the metaphysical seventeenth-century manner, appealing to the intellect rather than to crude emotion. Something Laudian—ceremonious, verbose, ingenious and doctrinally quite free of prejudice. I have been thinking a good deal about my costume; full sleeves, I think…” “Oh, do be quiet! You
swift and silent trolley they set Dennis’s largest collecting box, first empty, later full. They drove to the Happier Hunting Ground where things were more makeshift, but between them without great difficulty they man-handled their load to the crematorium, and stowed it in the oven. Dennis turned on the gas and lit it. Flame shot from all sides of the brick-work. He closed the iron door. “I reckon she’ll take an hour and a half,” he said. “Do you want to stay?” “I can’t bear to think of her