Friday, June 17, 2016
Sensational (literally) stories by Clarice Lispector
Clarice Lispector, Brazilian writer who died in her 50s in 1977, one of those oft-mentioned writers I'd never read - how did I miss her? - and started last night reading the New Directions collection, Soustorm, of what I think are her last 2 collections of short stories (she's mainly known as a short-story writer). The stories I've read so far are short (sometimes 2 pages only), sexual, violent, powerful, and odd, so what more could you want? Two that seem typical are the first two: one about a woman living alone in London, hard working, austere, devout, even Puritanical, lonesome, a bit self-pitying - and one night she hears a noise and sees a man in the room, has a vision that he is some kind of spirit or angel, the man has sex with her and she' enraptured, waits for his return, changes her entire personality and, quite amazingly, begins a life of prostitution. Second story, a trio contentedly living in bigamy, highly sexual relations among all three, the man also spend time with prostitutes, the more time he spends away the closer the two women become and then they begin a lesbian relationship, when they learn he's been w/ prostitutes they withhold from him and, eventually, stab him to death in his sleep and bury him in the garden (the police investigate his disappearance and the women lead them to the grave). The police, not wanting to deal w/ the complexities of the case, suggest the women take off for another city, which they do, case closed. OK, quite sensational - and made even a little weirder by Lispector's author's note saying she wrote those stories on commission and that they are true stories. I don't quite believe that, but it adds a little frisson. Interesting potential comparisons among Lispector and two other female short-story writers who have perfected the very short form, Lydia Davis and Lucia Berlin, which I'll take up in future posts.