Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A denizen of another room . . .



A denizen of another room was my mother's sister Minnie, a frowze with a loose mouth and hair like dyed straw, our "good-hearted slob", always ready to give any of us the shirt off her back and to excoriate whoever declined it. Long ago married to a soldier, and widowed by the Spanish-American War, Minnie had moved back into the flat with her small boy, to leave him in the old lady's hands while she went out working as a waitress; one evening she came home to find the boy was dead, he had fallen into the cellarway and opened his skull. For years afterward when Mary Dore was watching the night, elbowed on her cushion and half out the window high above the streetlamps, it was for Minnie's homeward lurching as much as Ben's, and indeed a night came when Minnie, drunk in the street with another waitress, saw her sidekick hit and killed by a trolley car. With Minnie in and disrobing her fortyish charms, the stubby old mother would shuffle around in her nightgown and shawl grumbling--fine hour of night to be out, fine thing not knowing where a daughter was or who with or doing what, fine condition to come home in too--until Minnie would say, "Shove it up your ass, Ma," and topple into bed.
-from A MASS FOR THE DEAD, by William Gibson






painting by Trevor Stubley 


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10 comments:

Erin Davis said...

A remarkable portrait in words.

Owen said...

Wow Lydia... pretty grim vision. Wasn't familiar with William Gibson, sounds fascinating though... Minnie losing first her husband, and then her son, sounds like the story in the news this week about the Israeli woman whose husband was killed in the space shuttle disaster, now her son died last week in an airplane crash... some folks seem to live under a dark star.

Maggie May said...

i love ' a loose mouth 'because that's exactly how it is on some people.

goatman said...

A depressing little vignette; hope the rest of the book was of a more hopeful bent.

Darlene said...

I have never heard of William Gibson or his book, A Mass for the Dead. His style seems to be like Wllliam Faulkner's so I am not sure I would enjoy his writing.

I could never appreciate Faulkner and gave my set of his novels to my daughter-in-law who liked him enormously.

Lydia said...

@Erin- I so totally agree. It didn't sit well with a few other readers, however...

@Owen- This excerpt is just one tiny piece of his marvelous memoir. He turns the light on dark corners for sure. But he also illuminates other aspects of his forebears' lives, as well as those of his mother, and his own.
You have reminded me of a part of the shuttle disaster that I'd forgotten. Interesting juxtaposition to Minnie's tale.

@Maggie May- Yea, that loose mouth is descriptive. Different than "loose lips" I guess, as I'm thinking of that saying "Loose lips sink ships."

@goatman- Gibson studied his world very closely and he wrote so descriptively of what he saw. Therefore, you feel this excerpt as strongly as you would his more soaring descriptions of hope, success, happy family, joy for living.

@Darlene- Not sure if he's like Faulkner because I've read only The Reivers (which I enjoyed).
William Gibson wrote The Miracle Worker, which won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1960.
A Mass for the Dead is one of my all-time favorite books, and I'm currently reading it for a fourth time. I think I may have given him a bum rap by selecting this excerpt, as I could pick one blindfolded from any page and it would be as descriptive but perhaps of a happier topic. :)

This Brazen Teacher said...

Whenever I read your blog, I wish there was a "like" button such as in Facebook. I always want to "thumbs up" your posts... because I never know quite what to comment... except to say... AWESOME. Which isn't profound enough... lol

Lydia said...

@Brazen- That's so cute of you to say that. Ya know, I really do use that "like" button a lot over at Facebook. I've seen a few blogs that offer something along this line but I don't think we can get it at Blogger.
Anyway, I LIKE your comment!

M Riyadh Sharif said...

I don't know about a lot English Writers... And William Gibson is someone I have never heard of. Thanks for introducing him and his book to us. I'm really finding it hard to say anything about his writing as I haven't read that much of English novels. But these few lines seem quite touching...

I guess you would like to check out my reply to your last comment in my blog.

I feel like it would be so great, so peaceful if you lived nearby me... Want to meet you one day Aunt... Love from Me... Have a good day!

Lydia said...

@Riyadh- Love right back to you from me! I'll come see your reply to my comment in a few moments.
If you ever seek this book out do understand that he loosely weaves it around certain Catholic masses, and only in the beginnings of some chapters. I know nothing about them, and it in no way obstructs my love for the book. I suppose if one was raised in that faith there would be certain tongue-in-cheek references that would be picked up.
I'm thinking the only authors I've read from your part of the world are Tagore and Gibran. ....

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