Skip to content

fiction 1: MAX WEBER IN OKLAHOMA page 3-

She has no idea where he is. What troubles her more, she knows he doesn’t either. Saint Louis, Missouri, 1904. A poor little half-baked German city, a third-rate town– half a million people without history, education, unity or art, with little capital, without even an element of natural interest except the Mississippi, which is studiously ignored– attempting what London, New York or Paris would shrink from trying, staggering under the extravagant expenditure. They’ve thrown away 30 to 40 million dollars on a pageant as ephemeral as a stage flat: The World Congress of Arts and Sciences, part of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, a fair meant to celebrate progress, but looks more like hubris. A new age of electricity illuminating an assemblage of glittering images shining on the mud flats of the Missouri River, victorious capitalism– an economic system resting now on materialist values and mechanical operations, devoid of all religious meaning and transcendental sanctions, a society driven by the display of dazzling objects of desire.

Marianne Weber stood at the second story window of her rooms in the August Gehner family mansion on Lindell Boulevard, looked out over rippling trees in the park, paced back and forth between the window and the large walnut bed. Max Weber abruptly gone off, Indian Territory, the Oklahoma District. She’d sit on the satin spread, stare at a thick flowered ceramic water pitcher and bowl on an oaken night stand, a hand-woven wool rug. Stifling heat and humidity insupportable this or any other time of year, the air absolutely still, a few languid flies– the fattest she has ever seen– buzzing about the ceiling.

She has grown used to this. Max Weber has been gone, off and on, for over five years– an evil demon clutching at his spirit– withdrawn, even when sitting by her on the same sofa at home in Heidelberg, spent the entire morning sometimes staring in feeble light at his fingernails, and when he did acknowledge her presence it was often a fit of nervous irritation that the soup was not ready, or too hot to eat, too cold to choke down, that he would not be able to sleep, that some unwanted visitor, meaning well, had commented how good he looked– did they not know his nerves were gone to hell! He could not work! Not read a word, write a cogent sentence, prepare a lecture, his only hope for peace was to flee the city. Go south. Lake Geneva, Florence, Rome, Sicily. Even the sanitarium on the Bodensee where cousin Emmy had also been committed. Depression. Madness.

The entire family was haunted with it. And something more Marianne could not name.

read more (to pg. 5)
© philip kimball 2009