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A Novel

L.I.E. by David Hollander
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"At once mordantly funny and achingly sad, L.I.E. is a soul map for modern suburbia."
--Sheri Holman, author of The Dress Lodger

Long Island, New York, 1987: Harlan Kessler--raised in Medford, a product of blue-collar Suffolk County, of housing developments and concrete strip malls--graduates from high school. He hangs out, he parties, he plays guitar for the Dayglow Crazies (the local rock-and-roll phenomenon), and he struggles diligently to lose his virginity. He doesn't think about the future much. The Long Island Expressway (L.I.E.) cleaves the landscape, permitting passage west, to the tonier climes of Nassau County and New York City, but to Harlan, this seems like an impossible journey, something beyond his Long Island birthright. And what's worse, evidence is accumulating that Harlan may not exist at all, that he may merely be a character in someone else's story, a fleeting thought in the mind of God.
        L.I.E. follows Harlan, his family, and his friends through two years of love, sex, death, betrayal, salvation, and enlightenment. In ten intimately interwoven stories, in prose that swings fluidly from gritty realism to heightened metafiction, David Hollander maps an American landscape that is at once vividly familiar and highly exotic, creating an unforgettable portrait of the passage to adult-hood and the search for identity, certain to resonate with legions of readers. By turns dark, funny, raw, and elegant, L.I.E. is the striking debut of a singular voice.

The last wisps of afternoon streak and evaporate into blue-gray dusk, submersing Long Island in twilight. Harlan and Rik Giannati sit on the curb outside Rik's house, precisely 211 yards northeast of Harlan's house, the distance punctuated by no fewer than fourteen subtly distinct houses of three ilks: the square, steeple-roofed Granada; the split-level LaSalle; the two-story, three-bedroom Monte Carlo. This last model was the choice of Kessler and Giannati alike some ten years ago when they, too, were assimilated in the mass exodus from Queens to Suffolk County that had gripped the hearts and genitals of so many. The streetlamps began to glow along Rustic Avenue, a cold blue flicker spaced at even intervals, like isolated members of the same species, each shivering in its cage of frosted glass. --From L.I.E.
Random House Publishing Group; January 2001
ISBN 9780375506413
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Title: L.I.E.
Author: David Hollander
April 1985: Olympic Material

"And then," Harlan continues, "they put me in the four-by-eight, right after I'd run the quarter!"

"The four-by-eight?" his father asks.

"Yeah. Four guys, we each run a half-mile. It's a relay."


"Whenever something starts 'four-by,' that means it's a relay."

They're sitting in the den; the television bathes them in a hypnotizing luminescence. His father is eating what would be Harlan's equivalent of breakfast. It's five P.M., but Dad works the night shift. He's only been up an hour.

"So then what happened?"

"Well, I've really been running well lately," Harlan says. "So they wanted me to anchor."

"Anchor?" His father takes a bite of a scrambled-egg sandwich. He looks at Harlan briefly, then back at sitcoms.

"Yeah," Harlan says. "That means to go last. The best guy goes last."

"And they wanted you to go last?" With affected pride.

"Yeah. But you know, I was still tired from the other race. "

"The quarter."

"Yeah, the quarter."

A breeze blows through the patio door. Beyond the chain-link fence that marks their territory, cars hurtle. Station Road is a place where kids drive fast. Harlan will start driving next year, and he imagines he'll follow local custom.

His father eats quickly, ravenously. He's listening to Harlan; that is, he wants to listen, but he keeps thinking about the time that Harlan came up to bat with two outs and runners on first and third in the bottom half of the last inning of the little-league championships. He belted a double into the gap in right-center. Was that so long ago? The team had lifted his son onto their shoulders. They'd paraded his boy around the diamond. And he'd called Harlan "Mr Clutch." "That's what they'll call you from now on, Harlan! Mr. Clutch!" he'd screamed. He'd felt like a father, like it meant something to be a father.

He swallows up the rest of his sandwich. Harlan goes on.

". . . I wouldn't let him pass me though. Bobby Miller, the best half-miler in the state! And I held him off!"

"Wow. That's great, Son. That's terrific, Harlan. Maybe you'll be a track star."

"Well, I don't know about that," he shrugs.

His father carries his plate and coffee cup into the kitchen. The water runs. Harlan doesn't know why he lied, but he knows that he had to. He knows it might not even be a lie. In his head it's very clear, it happened just like he said, he ran anchor, he held off Bobby Miller, it might have happened that way.

That night his father will unleash the story on a coworker. "My son's a track star, you know. Best relay runner in the state, the whole damn state!"

And years later Harlan will dust it off, in a bar, for a woman who isn't going home with him. "Sure, we've all got a few things that stick with us. Like my sub-two half-mile. I was a real speed demon back then, Olympic material. Why's that so hard to believe?"
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