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2014 Story 24

From The Worlds of Philip Jose Farmer Volume 2: Of Dust and Soul from Meteor House Press, edited by Michael Croteau

24. STRANGERS AND BROTHERS: FRANCIS UQUART by Philip Jose Farmer    I don't usually count novel excerpts in my "stories read" count (every issue of Lightspeed Magazine, for instance, has at least two), but since I'm tracking all of Tim Howller's appearances in Farmer's fiction and this chapter of an unpublished novel actually feels like a complete story, I thought I would make this one exception. Strangers and Brothers is a literary novel (rather than genre fiction) that Farmer pitched to publishers in 1970 but for which he didn't find any takers. One prospective chapter ended up as the short story "The Face That Launched A Thousand Eggs," reviewed yesterday; this chapter, which takes place chronologically before "Face," is apparently the only other piece of the novel Farmer wrote.  Despite being an excerpt, it stands very well on its own as the story of a naive college freshman (Howller, based on Farmer himself) who discovers for the first time the effect a beautiful woman can have on him when he sees Francis Uquart in a movie theater. Later than night, he gets drunk for the first time and actually gets to meet this woman of his dreams. The whole story is fast and fun, but where Farmer really knocks it out of the park is in the descriptions of Tim's longing for a girl he's never met and the descriptions of Tim's first experience with alcohol. Everyone speaks in what we think of as that 1930s-40s intellectual patter, but shy Tim becomes not just bold but also more eloquent, his language more in step with his friends, as he gets drunker.  It's a bit of a comedy of errors and a strong look at obession at the same time.



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