Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beach Buddies

Sunday's Washington Post asked authors what literary character they would like to go to the beach with. There are some wonderful answers, including Arthur Phillips (who I am reading right now) on Captain Ahab — I am a terrible beach-o-phobe, tiptoeing into the surf clenched with certainty that I will soon be ray-stung or jelly-scorched. How reassuring then, if I must go to the beach, to be protected by an unwavering maniac, ready to kill anything that swims too close to me. — and Philippa Gregory on Jake Barnes — Jake is tremendously laid back and cool with an inner sorrow… He is a virtuoso drinker, so I anticipate some chilled white to start and a strong red for the later evening.

My choice would be Dick and Nicole Diver, of Tender is the Night, from the very beginning of the book, before their lives fell apart.

Nearest her, on the other side, a young woman lay under a roof of umbrellas making out a list of things from a book open on the sand. Her bathing suit was pulled off her shoulders and her back, a ruddy, orange brown, set off by a string of creamy pearls, shone in the sun. Her face was hard and lovely and pitiful. Her eyes met Rosemary’s but did not see her. Beyond her was a fine man in a jockey cap and red-striped tights; then the woman Rosemary had seen on the raft, and who looked back at her, seeing her; then a man with a long face and a golden, leonine head, with blue tights and no hat, talking very seriously to an unmistakably Latin young man in black tights, both of them picking at little pieces of seaweed in the sand. She thought they were mostly Americans, but something made them unlike the Americans she had known of late.

After a while she realized that the man in the jockey cap was giving a quiet little performance for this group; he moved gravely about with a rake, ostensibly removing gravel and meanwhile developing some esoteric burlesque held in suspension by his grave face. Its faintest ramification had become hilarious, until whatever he said released a burst of laughter. Even those who, like herself, were too far away to hear, sent out antennæ of attention until the only person on the beach not caught up in it was the young woman with the string of pearls. Perhaps from modesty of possession she responded to each salvo of amusement by bending closer over her list.


Ann said...

I LOVE Dick and Nicole Diver from Tender is the Night. I read that book a long time ago so I don't remember a lot of details, but I do remember that they sign their name Dicole and that they bring only one toothbrush with them when they travel. I read a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald and F. Scott Fitzgerald when I was a teenager and have been fascinated by them (and fictionalized versions of their relationship) ever since.

Ms. Cavanaugh said...

I know! I guess they're based partly on Sara and Gerald Murphy, this couple I'm now so interested in, and I've read the book twice. So, so good.