Friday, November 4, 2022

The End of Me by Alfred Hayes

The End of Me by Alfred Hayes

The End of Me (1968) is a novel by Alfred Hayes about a fifty-one-year-old man named Asher whose life has fallen apart. At the beginning of the novel, Asher witnesses his wife having an affair with a fellow tennis player. Asher is shattered and feels like howling. He returns to his house and decides to leave every light on and blazing instead of burning the house down. Then he leaves L.A. without telling his wife. Asher escapes to New York City where he was born and spent many years. He thinks,

"Thirty-five years. Yes. I'd given the city so much of my possible life. Surely, what was broken in me, the crippled sense of myself, would be restored. I'd heal among these brutal angles. I'd bathe in her like a spa. I'd convalesce in her indifferent arms."

He takes a room in a hotel with a view of Central Park, and watches the world from his window. Asher reflects on his life. He was once a successful screenwriter, but then as he grew older, Hollywood lost interest in him and doors closed on him. Asher describes it saying, "...the way the jobs disappeared, the people hanging up on the phone, the being turned into a ghost. They do that to you, you know: they ghostify you." He had two failed marriages and has no children. He thinks, "Well: apparently, what one ran out of was not mistakes, but the years to make them in."

When he walks around New York, he sees the changes in the city, reflecting:

"I'd walk slowly, I thought, and I would let the city come at me slowly. But New York does not come at you slowly. It isn't a landscape. It comes at you simultaneously. It is constantly existing at the periphery of your sight. You are almost always seeing at the very edge of what you see something else that you are still not seeing. I had always known this even when it was a different city and I had lived in it and was now trying to live in it again."

Asher visits his Aunt Dora, who mentions that her grandson Michael Bey wants to be a writer too. Asher meets Michael, who is a jaded, suspicious young man. Asher is rude to him, but later regrets his behavior. In his remorse, Asher hires Michael to walk around New York City with him to visit places that were significant in his past. Asher later wonders if he is trying to gain Michael’s approval, as though by sharing his history he will have a protégé.

Michael is dating a law student named Aurora d’Amore. Her name is ridiculously fake sounding, and Aurora is good at playing a wide-eyed innocent routine and "complicated games." Asher is attracted to her, and he jealously wonders what Aurora sees in Michael. When he’s with Aurora, Asher wishes he was still young.

Asher fails to see that Michael and Aurora are conniving and cruel. They gain Asher’s confidence to learn his deepest secrets, and they lie to him and humiliate him in profound ways. Asher is foolish, not realizing that that the pair is working to trick him and amuse themselves. At the novel’s conclusion, he reflects, "Everything went by. Nothing went by. I went by." Instead of finding a place to heal, Asher found more cruelty in New York. The End of Me is a tragic and cold story of loss, aging, generational conflict, ignorance, despair, and humiliation.

Related Reviews:
My Face for the World to See by Alfred Hayes
In Love by Alfred Hayes

Purchase and read books by Alfred Hayes:

The End of Me by Alfred Hayes In Love by Alfred Hayes My Face for the World to See by Alfred Hayes