Thursday, January 15, 2009

Everything depends upon the words

Tattoo for a Slave has been on my radar for a while. I'm out of excuses now.
Failure and isolation were themes that ran through her 23 novels and short-story collections: failure of love, marriage, communication, identity. She explored the isolation within families that cannot be avoided yet cannot be faced, isolation imposed by wounds inflicted even in the happiest of households, wounds that shape events for generations.

But her peers seemed most intrigued by her distinctive way of telling a story, her filigreed sentences and bold stylistic excursions. “Hortense Calisher has never been a writer who masked her thinking self or disappeared into her subject,” the critic Morris Dickstein wrote in The Times, commenting on her Jamesian fascination with the authorial intellect.

...“Going back over one’s own work, one can see from earliest times, certain paraforms emerging,” she wrote in “Herself.” “If one is crazy, these are idées fixes; if one is sane, these are systematic views. A mind is not given but makes itself, out of whatever is at hand and sticking tape — and is not a private possession but an offering. I had always had to write everything, no matter the subject, as if my life depended upon it. Of course — it does.”

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