Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Big Read IV: Shirley Jackson's "The Villager"

The Lottery: And Other Stories The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson




The Villager

She went into Whelan's and sat at the counter, putting her copy of the Villager down on the counter next to her pocketbook and The Charterhouse of Parma, which she had read enthusiastically up to page fifty and only carried now for effect.
I must admit I haven't read that book, and had to look it up to find out what it was. Miss Clarence's reading of the novel is much like her life. She came to New York to dance, and now she stays as a secretary. What glamor she has is simply the fact that she still lives in New York. If she stops carrying around the novel that she never finished, perhaps she would need to face her unfinished life. The effect of her life would be lost.

Miss Clarence is looking at some furniture for sale. The owner stepped out, but invites her in with a note. Now more quickly I see, with home as extension of self, that Miss Clarence is invited in to try on someone else's life. She looks through their cupboards, their fridge, deduces they dine out. The young couple is moving. Artie is an artist.

A look at a book about dance put her in touch with her own past ambition. This young artist has his dreams before him, hers are behind her. Inhabiting his home, she inhabits his moment, and attempts the dance pose that no longer comes easily. Another furniture shopper knocks, and she poses as the owner, Mrs. Roberts. Once the other shopper leaves, she is "suddenly in a hurry."
She has come too close to the discordant understanding that she now can never inhabit the moment of the young artist. That is past for her. Best not to dwell too long there.

Now that is sad.

1 comment:

Leila said...

"Home as extension of self" has been quite a serious theme so far, hasn't it?