Little Known Facts A Novel - By Christine Sneed

Chapter 1


More times than he would care to count, Will has witnessed his father’s ability to silence a room merely by entering it. He has seen his father’s expression change in an instant from utter exhaustion to the bright, sometimes false pleasure of being the center of attention, the person on whom every pair of eyes is fastened, some with desire, others with envy. His father has won coveted annual awards and routinely earned millions of dollars for a few months’ work in front of a camera and has attracted the admiring, sometimes slavish attention of some of the world’s most powerful men and beautiful women. Despite his own early marriage, he has achieved the goals that many men set for themselves in adolescence but abandon when they marry young and begin to produce children and acquire mortgages and jobs they aren’t thrilled with and wives who, after a few years, can barely tolerate their bullying insipidity and dispiriting lack of imagination. Will’s father, Renn Ivins, is in his early fifties and divorced from two women who did not tire of him before he tired of them. Will is shorter than his father by two inches and at twenty-six already witnessing his hairline’s recession, whereas his father still has a full head of movie-star hair. Will believes that even his name is less interesting than his father’s: Billy, though he has asked people to call him Will since his second year of college, and now it is only family—his parents and his sister Anna, and a few childhood friends—who still call him Billy.

His mother was the first woman to marry and be left by his father. She is a pediatrician and for a long time was furious to have been discarded for a younger woman with no obvious merits other than her witless adoration of Renn and the supposed ability to suffer more gracefully the sex scenes that he has pretended since the beginning of his career to dislike—his claim has always been that he submits to them only to avoid an argument with the director. Sex scenes, he has said, are his least favorite scenes to film because they aren’t at all sexy. If you actually paused for a moment to consider it, how could you believe that the actors are enjoying themselves while choreographing intimate acts in front of a film crew, most of them little better than strangers? How many people, in any case, want to be studied and critiqued while making love?

The first Mrs. Ivins has told her children that she was too smart for him, that from the beginning, she saw through his selfishness and self-obsession. Behind it, there was a simple message scribbled on a dingy wall: Pig. Over the intervening years, Will’s sister has tried to defend their father by telling their mother that she thought he was the nicest man she knew, that she missed him when he was gone, that she thought he was more fun than anyone else. Twelve years old when the divorce went through, Will kept his opinions about their father mostly to himself. They weren’t as generous as his sister’s, but they weren’t as unkind as their mother’s either.

Despite his easy access to casting agents and directors, Will has not followed his father into a career in film. Four years postcollege and he still has not come across anything that fills him with suspense or a sense of purpose for more than a few weeks at a time. He has everything he needs materially, and on some mornings when he wakes in his three-bedroom condominium that sits within view of an imposing hilltop museum, a home that he paid for with one check drawn on his trust account, he feels restless and out of sorts. The unearned spoils of his comfortable life, the European stereo system, the nearly weightless down comforter, the copper cooking pots he almost never uses, all seem incidental, as if he has awakened in a privileged stranger’s home. He has used his father’s money but has not wanted to use his influence to sign with an agent and begin the process of auditioning for roles he would never previously have imagined himself pursuing. He is not interested in gaining weight to play a paunchy stoner or an unshaven flunky in a biker movie. He does not want to be cast as the waiter with two lines who serves the film’s stars their lunches. As a witness to and a sometimes-grudging admirer of the great