Monday April 12th, 2010

The Family Situation

hardwickJessa Crispin at Bookslut points to “Evenings at Home,” a story included in the forthcoming The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick. It’s about a woman visiting her home in Kentucky after years in New York, and from sources online it’s hard to tell if it’s memoir or fiction. The first two paragraphs:

I am here in Kentucky with my family for the first time in a number of years and, naturally, I am quite uncomfortable, but not in the way I had anticipated before leaving New York. The thing that startles me is that I am completely free and can do and say exactly what I wish. This freedom leads me to the bewildering conclusion that the notions I have entertained about my family are fantastic manias, complicated, willful distortions which are so clearly contrary to the facts that I might have taken them from some bloody romance, or, to be more specific, from one of those childhood stories in which the heroine, ragged and castoff, roams the cold streets begging alms which go into the eager hands of a tyrannical stepmother.

I staggered a bit when I actually came face to face with my own mother: she carries no whips, gives no evidence of cannibalism. At night everyone sleeps peacefully. So far as I can judge they accuse me of no crimes, make no demands upon me; they neither praise nor criticize me excessively. My uneasiness and defensiveness are quite beside the point, like those flamboyant but unnecessary gestures of our old elocution teacher. My family situation is distinguished by only one eccentricity — it is entirely healthy and normal.

Read the whole thing.