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

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Monday, March 28, 2016

A good story, but Porter backs away from its darker potential

I wouldn't say that Katherine Anne Porter's The Cracked Looking-Glass is one of her best "long stories," even tho it appears in 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories. It's almost as if KAP chickened out as her narrative began to get interesting and dangerous (unlike some of her more famous, darker stories, like Noon Wine, if I'm remembering it correctly). Like her other stories, it centers on a lonely and somewhat isolate couple - the husband, Dennis, is 75 and his wife (his 2nd wife), Rosalee (?) is 25 years younger. She's youthful and attractive and a mismatch for him - which leads to lots of neighborhood flirtation: traveling salesmen, neighbor mean who stop by for a visit and stay a little too long. Rosalee, moved by a vision that she has, goes off to NYC and then Boston to seek out her sister whom she believes may be grievously ill - at least acc to her vision - but finds that her sister has left Boston w/out a trace (communication was much more difficult in 1930); she meets a young man, a fellow Irish immigrant, and buys him dinner, takes pity on him, invites him to come live w/ her and Dennis, and the man gets the wrong idea, which leads to a big fight. When she returns home she learns of the gossip that surrounds her in the farm community where they live. OK, but KAP backs off here - instead of having R take some risk, some desperate action, leaving her husband, attacking one of the gossips - essentially what happens is that she recognizes that all of her visions do not turn out to be predictive, and she snuggles up by her husband, content - and btw she forgot to buy a new "looking glass" to replace the warped one that gives her the wrong image of herself. The ending is too easy and the symbolism too heavy - but that said I could see this story adapted into an effective short play, maybe good for a student production, or maybe it would have been back in the day.

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