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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Newly anointed "forgotten" author Harrower makes New Yorker debut?

Since James Wood anointed Elizabeth Harrower in a recent New Yorker review I guess the fiction team felt it was time they published something by her, so here we have her story Alice in the current issue, a first for the NZ or Aussie writer I'm guessing? On the plus, I truly admire a story of such economy; she tells the essence of a sad and lonely woman's troubled life in a just a few pages. This story could of course be a sketch for our outline of a novel - but then the question would be: If you could tell us all in a short story, why not just leave it at that? And I agree, being a strong believe in economy and minimalism in all of the arts. (I wrote a story, unpublished, that my then-writers' group said should be expanded into a novel - which was exactly why it shouldn't have been.) On the downside, this story is not just polemical but almost a diatribe against men: I know it's just one particular set of circumstances, one family, but the mood throughout the entire story that all men are shits, though each is a shit in his own way, and of course many are and of course the world - particularly for woman born about 1930 - was and still is tilted unfairly, and I can totally accept that Alice's mother was indifferent to her while doting on her two good-for-naught brothers, that was the cultural bias of the time and persists today. But the story so relentlessly pounds this home, and I think it would have been a richer story had there been at least one man in her life who was sympathetic, even slightly. The ending certainly puzzled me, as Alice experiences a moment of near-enlightenment when a young neighbor goes out of her way seeking Alice's blessing of her pending wedding: I see that this is a moment when Alice realizes a solidarity among women that had eluded her all her life, especially because of her evil and meddling mother, but Harrower's claim that her life was never the same after that moment feels a little forced, or at least unexamined.


  1. Australian. Easy to google.

  2. Thanks, Aus. it is - I try not to do research while writing these posts - not meant to be scholarly.