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

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

The typical Lispector character

The typical character in a Clarice Lispector story (assuming, that is, that her collection The Stations of the Body, part of the double-edition Soulstorm, are typical of her late work): an elderly woman driven to extremes and to strange behavior by her unfulfilled sexual desires, or, a young and somewhat Puritanical or repressed woman, same fate. This particular volume of stories is like a series of sketches, variations on a theme - none fully developed or especially nuanced, but each or almost each powerful, a kick to the gut, and memorable. The second volume included in Soulstorm - perhaps her last story collection? - touches on these themes in some but not all of the stories, and the stories, though unconventional in style (although not out of line with the highly inventive world fiction of the 1970s) are more fully developed. One in particular is a near-classic, When the Train Left the Station (?), a story of two women, stranger, sharing a compartment in a train heading from a major city (Rio?) toward the country - one an older woman, feeling displaced and alone, on her way to spending the remaining years of her life with a son in the countryside; the other, a young woman, leaving her boyfriend/partner, a serious intellectual and scholar beside whom she feels inferior (and unloved), planning to live in the countryside for 6 months - story moves back and forth between the thoughts and impressions of the two women, with only an occasional interaction, very insightful and sorrowful. Some of the other stories in this collection, however, seem quaint and dated - a meditation on women and horses, a dreamlike apocalyptic vision that's extremely difficult to follow and, in the end, no worth doing so.

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