Tree Farm Books


    In many ways the painstaking, imagination-killing requirements of litigation helped sort Wisner out. Frank looked just then not unlike the aspirant Marlon Brando; his hairline had inaugurated its retreat above his bulging temples, with something of Brando's rapt, faintly sardonic gleam, the pressure of unspoken opinions complicated his play of lips. He already seemed precocious for his restraint with demanding clients: he alone got through seven years of litigating in behalf of the engineers at Bechtel. He liked things perking along, every minute; one friend still recalls a trip to Charlottesville in the midst of those early years when the entertainment flagged, and Frank bet every other man in the group that he could jump lower, squat higher, and win a race against any of them using only one leg. "Of course he picked a short enough distance so he could win it," the friend laughs: Wisner lived to stir people up, but he was never a pushover. [p. 185]

Wisner raised his head. His baldness had advanced to the extent that back across his crown he retained at best a suggestion of closely clippered hair, a stippling, to dot his powerful cranium. With his compact features and tightly fitted ears and something of a fullness coming into his jawline his head looked sunken into his shirt collar: clean-cut yet almost torpedo-like, reminiscent somehow of Herblock's drawing of the atomic bomb. He obviously didn't care for this much abruptness just then. Wisner's mouth was set, and absent the expectation of humor which normally wreathed his lips in McCargar's presence. [p. 360-361]

Everyone near Wisner worried. The inactive recuperative stretch after his hospitalization for hepatitis had caused his weight to jump, he looked increasingly dumpy. "For the first time, at that stage, I noticed that whenever he disagreed with you his voice had a tendency to rise, he would become excited, even quite shrill," Charles Murphy comments. His jowls inflated, folds thickened the corners of his intent eyes, and under sustained attack a kind of frozen grimace sometimes seemed to contort his mouth into a defensive rictus, as if to show that enough was left to sustain him no matter how they piled it on. [p. 391]

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