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Developing Effective Reading in Exam Classes by Jeanette Corbett -
lesson plan 5

Reading text used in the lesson - excerpt from
'A Man In Full' Tom Wolfe p437-438

EVEN AFTER THE lights came up and Inky Blanchard bade the crowd farewell and they headed away from the white tables and poppy cache-pots, Martha remained in a daze. Twenty thousand dollars she had poured into this evening - and for what? Herbert Longleaf was suddenly at her side, all smiles and patter, as if he had actually paid her some attention from the moment they first arrived until now….and within thirty seconds, although he walked beside her, he had turned his head to Joyce's Glenn Branwaist. Joyce was all smiles, too, clearly ecstatic about being in the thick of such a fabulous event. She had a strange piping laugh that went eye eye eye eye eye eye eye eye as she listened to something rich that Oskar von Eyrik was saying to Sonny Beamer.
One and all were heading for the front entrance, which was far too cramped for a crowd this size. Scores of tuxedos and party dresses were converging. A blur of fancy-dressed humanity slowing down to a shuffle -
Suddenly right beside her - Charlie. Charlie and Serena - so close there was no avoiding them.
They were as startled as she was. Charlie's huge chest swelled up inside his white shirt, and for an instant his big square face looked as helpless as it had that fateful morning when she had surprised him with Serena. Serena stood stock-still, her lips parted, her eyes wide, motionless, as if holding her breath.
Martha knew exactly what was coming. It was as if she could hear the synapses firing in Charlie's skull. He had a look she had seen so often before. He broke into a smile. Then, his eyes lit up. She didn't know what he was going to say, but she already knew how to characterize it: a real hambone performance.
"Heyyyyyyy, Martha!" he said in the heartiest voice imaginable. "As I live and breathe! How you doin', gal? I didn't know you were here!"
The How you doin', gal? was the worst of it. How you doin' was pronounced in a certain tiny, intimate, mincing way - "Heh yew dewin'?"- that was pure South Georgia. And the gal was just short of obscene.
Martha stared at him, paralyzed, speechless. So Charlie turned to Herbert Longleaf and gave him the sort of intense Friendly Bear grin and thrust of the head that he used to charm people he was meeting for the first time and put out his hand, and Martha could see she had no choice but to croak out:
"Charlie, this is Herbert Longleaf."
"Herbert?" said Charlie with the sort of pseudo-rapt Southern manly stare she had seen him use so often during their twenty-nine years of marriage. It was terribly tiresome to see him use it yet once more, in this place, at this time. "Charlie Croker, Herbert! It's real nice to meet -you. I want you .to meet my wife, Serena."
He steered Serena - Serena and her tiny black dress with the deep cleavage that was so fashionable among young women this year - toward Herbert Longleaf. Martha instinctively withdrew. She didn't want to have to force a smile onto her face and say hello to Charlie's perfect boy with breasts.
To make matters worse, Herbert Longleaf, her supposed escort, was charmed, immediately. A big submissive grin came over his face, and he began blurting out pleasantries. The next thing Martha knew, Glenn and Oskar von Eyrik and Sonny Beamer began moving closer to the great man as well. Immediately' mesmerized, the whole bunch of them! The fabled tycoon - and his perfect boy with breasts! No quick hello, so long, not for Mr. Herbert Longleaf. Oh no. Now he and Charlie were deep in conversation, and Serena, listening in, laughed sociably, and so did Glenn and Oskar and Sonny Beamer. Their grins became more and more worshipful, helpless, grateful, and ingratiating. The great man stoops to converse with us! Oh, bless our- lucky stars! They were paying more attention to Charlie than they had paid to her the entire evening. Joyce was loyal and stayed by her side, although who could say? Maybe in her heart of hearts she wanted to meet the great man and bask in the radiance of his manly grandeur like the rest of them.
"So that's Charlie," said' Joyce.
Martha made no reply. Involuntarily she pulled back still farther, until now the stream of people trying to get to the door had made its way between her and the worshipful knot of people around her ex-husband. Except for Joyce, her eighteen thousand dollars' worth of -. guests were no longer aware of her existence. She was afraid to say anything to Joyce. She was afraid. she might start crying.
'Martha! Martha!"
She turned her head. It was a pleasant-looking man, late thirties, early forties, with a nearly lineless face and thick sandy-colored hair He was in a crouch, as if hiding from something. He also looked a bit drunk.
She had no idea who he was - but at the very least he was that rare creature in this teeming place: a man who actually remembered her name.
"Ray Peepgass, Martha! From PlannersBanc"
She still had no recollection of him, but she did remember the many hours she spent in the company of people from the bank while Charlie was romancing them for stupendous loans.
He came forward, still in his crouch, and shook her hand. "I saw you earlier but I couldn't get over to you there was such a mob!" He kept smiling but also looking this way and that. "This is so funny, because I was thinking about you just yesterday and wondering how to get in touch with you!"
"With me?"
"Yes! There's something I need to run by you! Could I give you a ring?"

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