Friday, January 16, 2009

Past 'tense

Yesterday I read in the NY Times Obits that Hortense Calisher had died. Now, she was 97 and had a good long life, so while death is always sad, hers is one in which we can focus on the good stuff from her almost-century down here on Earth.

Calisher was an unusual writer - she started writing late in life, and would switch genres between novels - sprawling complex family dramas set in New York, then science fiction, then something else again entirely. The novels were never my interest with her, I gravitated more towards the short stories.

One story I really like is "In Greenwich There Are Many Gravelled Walks." It's about a boy and his relationship to his eccentric mother, with that typically dense Calisher plot. The boy is off at boarding school and his mother rebels against their Upper West Side, somewhat rigid lifestyle. My favorite line has to do with the mother moving back to Greenwich Village, "to those few important blocks where she felt safe and known and loved."

The narrator describes all the eccentrics in the Village who accept his mother, including "the anomalous, sandalled young men." I just love that one.

I met Ms. Calisher once at a reading. After the reading she did a little signing, and since she came without a publicist she also came without a pen. I donated mine to the cause and told her I was just discovering her work for myself. She smiled and said, "I've written a lot. You've got a LONG trip ahead of you."

Bon Voyage to you too, Hortense! Thanks for all the books.


ALH said...

I don't understand. These are on Hulu?

Brian said...

You just touched me. I'm touched. by you.