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I cannot get you close enough : three…
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I cannot get you close enough : three novellas (original 1990; edição 1990)

por Ellen Gilchrist

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In these three interconnecting stories, the author explores the love that binds generations to each other, the love between parent and child, the power of which is as capable of destruction as it is of creation. Ellen Gilchrist was the winner of the 1984 American Book Award for fiction.
Título:I cannot get you close enough : three novellas
Autores:Ellen Gilchrist
Informação:Boston : Little, Brown, c1990.
Colecções:adult fiction

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I Cannot Get You Close Enough: Three Novellas por Ellen Gilchrist (1990)

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One of my favorites. ( )
  writerwoman | Sep 5, 2008 |
Quote of the Day from "Winter":

“I was too old by then to plunge myself into a world where I would have to meet Dubravka, to be involved with the lost intellectuals of Eastern Europe. For all his gaiety and art, all the brilliance of his costumes, all his exuberance and life, the other thing was always there, waiting to cross his face at the strangest moments, a Poland he could not return to, parents he had not seen grown old and die. A stillness would come over him and I would think, He is truly disinherited. What could I offer this man to make up for that?"

Not quite up to any collection that has a Rhoda Manning story, but there are Mannings mentioned in passing. They are relatives of the Hands, the soused, screwy Southern (Charlotte, N.C.) family that stars in these three novellas.

I see that Gilchrist herself was an alcoholic. Is a recovering alcoholic, I guess I should say. The Anna character here, a writer, must have some bits of Gilchrist.

Dreams, dreamy dreams. Ellen Gilchrist's first story collection was called, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams. I know: how many writers don't have their characters dreaming at some point? We also have the interpretations of therapists, psychologists and counselors referred to. And there's this, from the character Anna, remembered by Lydia: "Listen, I think consciousness may only be a way to escape from dreaming and this idea that consciousness is a curse may be the silliest idea of all. Why are we so glad to wake? We crave the light and the dazzling light-filled dramas of our days."

There is a bit more of a clue here: someone--maybe it's Lydia, maybe it's Traceleen--observes that southern belle Crystal has always been straining to create the perfect marriage, the perfect family or home. It's some impossible vision, the specifics of which have been implanted by her class--old, rich Southern.

Another running motif in all the stories: what's with the dressing gowns and bath robes?

The final of three novellas, "A Summer in Maine," at first struck me as the most cinematic. We finally have a good clutch of Hands (Daniel and his two teenage daughters; his distant cousin Crystal and her two children; as well as Traceleen--Crystal's faithful African-American housemaid, cook and co-mother--and Traceleen's teenage niece Andria; Crystal's artist friend and rival, Lydia; and some short-term visitors, like Daniel's sister Helen and Crystal's feckless younger lover what's-his-name.

They're all stuck to together in this mammoth house owned by elderly ex-actress Noel, who is Crystal's friend back home in New Orleans. Noel was once a long-time correspondent of Daniel's writer sister Anna, who has recently committed suicide. She was the focus of the first story, "Winter."

If this cast sounds confusing, it was and I had read the other stories right before. Gilchrist in this long novella is also constantly shifting point-of-view. What we're actually reading is something like the stream-of-consciousness of Traceleen or Lydia or Andria or Daniel's daughters Olivia (the recently discovered half-Native American) or her half-sister Jessie. Whew! It does clarify. Come to think of it, she doesn't do any male POV's in this story and it's not something she gives us much of a glimpse of in the other stories.

Noel wants to ensure that Crystal and Lydia get her cache of letters from Anna and bring them back to New Orleans. She neglects to point out at this point that Helen, Anna's literary executor, wants to get her hands on them. You think there's going to be some kind of suspense here, especially when Helen pops up with her new lover, a hunky Boston poet. Or when the teenage girls discover the cache and make some kind of secret club about it. But none of it really goes anywhere. Helen doesn't get the letters, doesn't come close, and they don't seem particularly important. Now, this approach can work. I can see a movie or TV movie set up so that you think this is the chase and then the rug gets pulled out from under you. This doesn't feel that way.

And Gilchrist can be adept at throwing the usual dramatic high points and encounters overboard. Cases in point: At age 19 or so, Daniel (as we learn in the second story, De Havilland Hand) had married a young Native American woman in the druggy San Francisco 1960's, but they split up before he could learn that she was pregnant. She died at Olivia's birth at home in Oklahoma and he doesn't find out until Olivia is a teenager. Soon after the first split, he marries the beautiful bitch-crush of his youth, Sheila, and has Jessie. You might think Gilchrist would want to show how this news hits Daniel and the rest of his family. What's his or Jessie's first sight of Olivia? Etc. That's not Gilchrist. It's all fait accompli by the time we find out. There's never any question that the clan will embrace, or try to embrace, Olivia.

Olivia was named after Olivia De Havilland, not because of the role in Gone With the Wind. This girl is not a goody two-shoes like Melanie, but she is the sister that is the "good girl" in the sense that she won't get distracted from her path to good grades and college by boys and sex. The beautiful, blond, entitled Jessie will. Andria has the same single-mindedness as Olivia.

I didn't notice it in the second story, in which Jessie and Olivia are about 15-16, but the absence of references to pop music in "A Summer in Maine" is really glaring. It further erodes Gilchrist's credibility: how can she know anything about kids in the mid- to late 1980's? The songs would be a constant background hum, sources of disagreement and bonding. The three girls are constantly in the car, in the sewing room, presumably on the beach ... I mean, jeez, and it's summer! there must be theme songs. Nothing.

The three girls also come from: New Orleans, Charlotte, and near Tulsa. I don't know which would have the coolest taste, probably depends on which girl is regarded as the coolest, which is the most self-confident. Plus, Andria would bring the African-American slant. I guess this might be the era of early Madonna, late Michael Jackson. Blondie? Boy George? Whitney Houston? Would they be too young for Talking Heads?

At one point, Lydia, who lives in Seattle, is said to have a thing for a TV program, Austin City Limits, but it goes nowhere, gets no more specific. There also should be a couple of must-see TV shows for the teenagers and Crystal's nine-year-old daughter. To make matters worse, we have some occasions when classical music pops up. The kids put on a show for Lydia's birthday and what do they sing or perform?

None of this is really as bothersome as the set-up for Jessie and King. King being Crystal's son, who must be about 19, just recently been detoxed from cocaine and/or heroin or worse. (Again, typically, this is a fait accompli and I'm not saying it doesn't work here.) Fated to be a womanizer, lush, a disappointment. He's the boyfriend of his distant cousin Jessie. But! Daniel (how?) has made him promise not to have sex with Jessie. The entire clan and sundry know of this promise.

I don't think I have to describe how well this turns out. The set-up is too fantastic, especially given Daniel's own history. And he certainly cares deeply about his daughters. Both Audria and Olivia are no virgins, they know their contraceptives--they're not going to advise Jessie? Buy her some condoms?

Enough carping, some choice bits:

From "Winter," which is told from the POV of Anna, a successful New York writer: "I knew she was watching me and I sauntered as lightly as possible, wanting to give her every last bit of whatever it was she had found in me to like."

"Phelan and I were in college. I guess Daniel and Sheila were almost fourteen. Maybe it was the summer I ran away and married Walker."

"He had never loved a woman the way he loved this bossy brown-haired psychologist from Greensboro. Now he had bungled this matter of the half-Indian Hand girl and she might never give him another piece of ass."

"There was nothing in the world that pleased Mrs. Hand more than the sight of good-looking men appearing in her yard a nine o'clock on a spring morning. She had been a belle, and she was a belle, and she needed courting." ( )
  Periodista | Jul 20, 2008 |
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This is a manuscript that the deceased poet and novelist Anna Hand left in a suitcase in a rented cottage in Beddiford, Maine.
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The book is comprised of three novellas: Winter, De Havilland Hand, and A Summer in Maine.
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In these three interconnecting stories, the author explores the love that binds generations to each other, the love between parent and child, the power of which is as capable of destruction as it is of creation. Ellen Gilchrist was the winner of the 1984 American Book Award for fiction.

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