Request for the Peanut Gallery

Okay, I’m working on something and I’ve ripped what little hair I have out of my head trying to find a specific story (possibly a short section of a novel) I’m trying to reference. We’re talking volumes ripped out of the library all over the floor. We’re talking crazed Google searches. We’re talking a few desperate emails to hard-core literary pals. This was something I read about fifteen years ago, written in a very poetic manner, that involves a man who walks the streets, who serves as a self-declared guard for a neighborhood community in an urban center but who is very much unappreciated, and whose services are scoffed at by the other people who live in the neighborhood. Think Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, but with the protagonist having more noble aspirations, a great call to duty for services that nobody around him can understand. It’s something that may have come before Ray Bradbury’s famous story “The Pedestrian,” which is similar, but not the story in question! I want to say that this was written at some point during the 1950s, but I’m not so sure. And this may have been the binding, because I think I checked this book out of a library, which is probably why I don’t have the book in question here.

I’m now considering the possibility that I somehow hallucinated this story, but I’m convinced that I read it somewhere. But it was long ago, in the days when I wasn’t so serious a reader, and I can’t recall the precise story. And this kills me, because normally I have a pretty good memory for things like this.

If anyone has any leads on this, I would be beyond appreciative! And perhaps I might send you some books or something. Any ideas what this story might be?

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4 Comments

  1. Richard Matheson’s I am Legend?

    If not, have you asked Metafilter or rec.arts.sf.written? They should be able to sniff it out.

  2. It brings to mind Harlan Ellison’s short story, “Paladin of the Lost Hour” but that was written in the 80s and has supernatural elements (which you don’t mention). Sorry. If you can recall more details or if someone says something that jogs your memory, post again and we’ll help you figure it out.

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