Variations on a Theme (Do Not Read Until After Mother’s Day)

Monday night, self sat spellbound while Lydia Davis read a rather disturbing story about the death of a mother.  The story was all in the details:  the narrator visits her mother in the hospital.  She enters the room and finds that her mother has died.  Someone who doesn’t know the first thing about the narrator’s mother has put in her dentures, but backwards.  So her dead mother has a very strange look.

Self was so shocked, so appalled, but that is the kind of detail one gets in a Lydia Davis short.

It is now almost 1 a.m.  Self has been trying to imagine what it would be like if the shoe was on the other foot:  that is, if hubby was the one who always wanted to visit home (Manila) at every opportunity?  Then self would be forced to think up ways to entertain herself.

One thing she would be sure to do would be to read.  She might not get very much sleep (as it is such a lonely feeling, all alone in the house), but she would be able to plough uninterrupted through at least a dozen books, she is sure of it.

This evening, self is reading the Winter 2011 issue of Fence.  She’s never tried submitting.  She feels this journal likes “the hip.”  Self thinks she is out-of-step with the times.  Editors have been writing back and telling her:  “Voices that are quiet, like yours, are a very hard sell.”

So, instead of wallowing in self-pity, self decides to actually read an issue of Fence.  And in a story by Philippe Aronson, a story set in Paris, she reads about the narrator’s grandmother dying.  Here’s an excerpt:

That night my (French) grandmother had a massive heart attack.  The next day I took a train down to Bordeaux to see her.  The nurses made me put on a long, pale-blue gown over my clothes before entering the Intensive Care Unit, where I found my grandmother lying on the hospital bed looking peaceful, vulnerable, and happier than I had ever seen her.  We held hands.  She told me she loved me.  I had loathed my grandmother since I was a baby, but as I held her hand there in the hospital, I told her I loved her and felt as though I actually did.  Forty-eight hours later she was dead.  I didn’t go to her funeral, but I kept the hospital gown, which I often wore at home, and which soon became a patchwork of black pinpricks caused by falling embers of numberless joints rolled with hash and tobacco.

What an audacious, impious imp that Philippe Aronson is!

Self loves his story.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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