Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mothering--part 1 of 3

I am reading Ann Patchett's Run right now, and I cannot quite fathom that I am nearly finished with it. It feels like I just started, by I only have approximately 50 pages left.

I recently mentioned how much I love Patchett's work. She is, for me, the quintessential novelist. I love Patchett's gift for creating character-driven drama. My friend, Mary, found it remarkable that Bel Canto is as dramatically moving as it proves to be because it occurs, for the most part, in one house, with the same people trapped in that house. Patchett's characters are superbly, but believably, dynamic.

Patchett's Run is, among other things, a domestic drama. Some of my favorite scenes are those in which Patchett pays homage to the comforts of home. Consider, for instance:

What she would have given to hear her mother's keys right now,
the jingle
that preceded the deep click of the lock. Heaven would
be home, to walk into
their own apartment together right now.
She would barely get out of her shoes.
She would sleep in her
coat and her dress if her mother would let her. She would
collapse into their shared bed, melt into familiar sheets.
Home, bed, sleep, mother-
who knew more beautiful words than these?

I can't remember reading a piece like this before now. Which piece is about a little girl and the intense love she feels for her home and her mother? No fairy tale for sure... as the mother in those tales is usually dead, missing-in-action, ineffectual, or wicked and step-. Which Austen drama? Emma's mother is dead, yes? Sense and sensibility? quite ineffectual. Mrs. Bennet is patently ridiculous. Jane Eyre? orphaned. And my poor, poor favorite, Anne Shirley? It is a home and a mother that she longs for, what she actually achieves in Green Gables and Marilla, though none of that came easily and she was pathetically and thoroughly orphaned before her big break.

Of course, none of this is lost on Patchett, who readily acknowledges her intention for this book in an interview included (in my copy, anyway) at the very end. While commenting on the book's concept of family, she explains:

the wonderful thing about fiction is that you rewrite history.
I kept thinking, What if in fact this family, which seems
completely patriarchal, does in fact run on a matriarchal line,
and that the true power that is handed down from generation
to generation comes not from the father but from the mother?

I am actually forcing myself to digest this book slowly. It is one thing to grow up in a patriarchal society, or maybe subculture, and come to feminism as as a result, which I certainly would own as my own journey. It is quite another to read Patchett extolling the Mother, pronouncing what it is to mother, in a way that can challenge the writings of one's personal history. yes, it is that imaginatively creative and yes, it does the trick. I won't mention the strongest inventions Patchett employs, just so you can feel their full effect should you chose to read her for yourself.

(this post is to be continued, with a connection made to these reprinted pictures from Fall 2007).


Sandra said...

You inspired me to checkout "Bel Canto".

maryh said...

i promise bel canto is in the mail soon - although perhaps i'd rather give it to you in person while you are here in TX. and i definitely want to read her next book - you have me interested...

Kristen said...

Looking forward to more on this.

aola said...

okay, I know what I will be reading next, thanks.


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