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Squeeze Box Man Commentary (Part 6)

THE PAINTING

At the beginning of the story called Bad Timing, we see Lazy in a room, presumably at his home, with an unknown woman. In the course of the story, there is a clue – cash on a dresser – that she is a sex worker. There is a painting on the wall. I wonder if any readers recognize it?

Prairie Mirage by Claude Breeze

The painting is Prairie Mirage, one of the Canadian Atlas paintings by Claude Breeze. I asked Jacob specifically to put a Canadian Atlas painting on Lazy’s wall. One of the things we learn about Lazy is that he likes art and is quite knowledgeable, and in fact was married to an artist named Barbara Allen. Barbara made earthworks, and back at the tail end of Lazy’s first career as a musician, she died when one of her massive sculptures collapsed.

There are lots of little details scattered throughout the novel, there even if nobody calls attention to them. If you’re familiar with Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, recall Seymour told Zooey to shine his shoes before appearing on a television game show, even though nobody would see them. “Anyway, I started bitching one night before the broadcast. Seymour’d told me to shine my shoes just as I was going out the door…. I was furious. The studio audience were all morons, the announcer was a moron, the sponsors were morons, and I just damn well wasn’t going to shine my shoes for them, I told Seymour. I said they couldn’t see them anyway, where we sat. He said to shine them anyway. He said to shine them for the Fat Lady“. In my imagination, Lazy would have loved that painting and would want it up in his room where he could see it every day.

Claude Breeze is a dear friend I’ve known since the early 80s. One day I gave him a copy of the comic containing his painting but didn’t say a word about it. Next time I saw him, Claude said, “Hey Eugene, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about”. He picked up his copy of Squeeze Box Man and flipped to the page. “That painting….. that painting…. it’s so familiar – I think it’s one of mine!”

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