Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Clara Stealey's Diary - January 26, 1910

"January 26 -

Exams to morrow! Zoology in the morning and Am. Lit. in the afternoon. Flunk in Am. Lit. sure. Saw Tom at noon. Went down street this evening. Down to Jones; then to Spencers; then to show, got some soda water and came home. Papa went to Middlebourne this morning."

found photograph

Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite authors. Right now I'm reading her novel, The Gravedigger's Daughter.

Here's an excerpt from the book to tempt and tease you:

"She was calling, "Ma? Ma--" childish and pleading.
Somehow she'd entered the stone house. Knowing perhaps she should not, there was danger here. A woman, a stranger, had called at her, to warn her. Rebecca had not listened, and Rebecca had not clearly seen the wounded man lying on the ground, in the cemetery.

She had not! She would claim she had not, afterward.

What she did remember was: laundry flapping on the clothesline.

Her belated realization, Ma would be mad as hell at her. For Rebecca should have helped with the laundry as always.

Yet: It can't happen, today is washday.

In the kitchen something blocked her way, and this was a wrong thing: a chair, sprawled on its back. Rebecca collided with the chair like a blind girl, wincing with pain.


Calling for her mother but her voice came so faint, Anna Schwart could not have heard had Anna Schwart been capable of hearing.

Then she called for her father--"Pa? Pa?"--reasoning even in this moment of terror He would want me to acknowledge him, to respect him.

She was in the kitchen of the old stone house, and hearing the sound of struggle in one of the back rooms. Her parents' bedroom?

She was panting, covered in a film of cold sweat. Her heart was beating erratically as a wounded bird beating its wings. All that she knew, she was forgetting. Laundry? Washday? She was forgetting. Already she'd forgotten the unknown woman crying Don't go in there!--stop her! She'd forgotten having heard gunshots; she could not have said how many shots she'd heard. And so she would not have thought He has reloaded. He is prepared. For it is an important distinction in such matters: if a man acts impulsively, or with premeditation."

In the video below, Oates talks about creating characters and the main character from The Gravedigger's Daughter, Rebecca Schwart.

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