Robert Stone’s freezer

In a 1982 essay concerning the novelist Robert Stone, Joseph Epstein agreed that Stone was a talented writer, but that his third novel A Flag For Sunrise (1981) was “a botch, such a sad and misguided failure.” Epstein went on to criticize Stone’s conventional liberal politics as the main problem of the novel, and that Stone’s sentiments dull what ought to be a dazzling story.

I read A Flag For Sunrise fifteen years ago and had forgotten all of it.  Stone’s second novel Dog Soldiers is one I can never forget, and while A Flag For Sunrise doesn’t measure up to that predecessor, it is better than I remember–or failed to remember. How can one forget the girl in the freezer?

He scanned the surface contents of the chest, amorphous cubes of ice, the enormous turkey, the bottles of beer with their peeling labels, and saw at last—in one comer, partially concealed by ice–a human foot. Looking more closely, he saw that it curved downward from a turned ankle on which there was a small cut gone black. The outer side of the foot was visible, its callused edge pressed against the top of a South American sandal. The thong of the sandal divided the darkly veined front of the foot; caught between two of the toes was a tiny cotton pompom of bright red. Father Egan looked down at the foot and understood only its beautiful symmetry, its functional wholeness, the sublime engineering that had appended its five longish toes. The top of it, he saw, was suntanned.