“Hope opened the door into the ladies’ room and saw, in the mirror above the basins, how her hair was coming out of its pins. She removed all the pins and stood gazing at the crone with the gray, girlishly loosened locks around her shoulders and saw what Diane Arbus might have seen and was appalled, and being appalled pricked her interest right up: ‘I’ve got an agenda: The Arbus Factor of old age,’ Hope looked forward to saying to Jack the next time it would be convenient for Jeremy and Nora to arrange lunch for them at the Cafe Provence.”
Lore Segal, Half the Kingdom
Half the Kingdom should be a grim affair: a story that takes place almost exclusively in the confusing, nightmarish emergency room of huge and depersonalized Cedars of Lebanon; populated by elderly characters in various states of poor health and loss of faculties, from the very sharp but obsessive to the bedridden stroke victim convinced he has already died; all confronting what appears to be an epidemic of Alzheimer’s affecting everyone over 62 in the building. One character makes a crack about Kafka writing slice-of-life fiction, and that crack is not unwarranted. But for all of that, Segal is a humorist, or at least an ironist, and she has the range of reference and the basic humanity to pull something like this above off: two sentences in which a character consciously pulls herself away from disappointment or even horror, that do the same for us. Half the Kingdom is similarly plucky and determined and self-reliant.
October 03, 2013, 9:30am Comments