This, above all:

This, above all: To be God's best for The Coach and for Anna

Friday, July 21, 2006

From our shelf: Borrowed Finery

Do not read Borrowed Finery like I did: in spurts, while waiting for the elevator or lining up to file our tax return. This book needs to be savored and draw in, like clear morning sunshine or sea breeze. Not that Paula Fox’s memoir reveals a life free of wounds, for there are many of these, more than a young girl’s fair share, no matter how precocious she is.

Paula approaches her past with the same intelligence and sensitivity she employs in her writing. The almost disjointed telling highlights her life as a giveaway child, shuttled from one place to another, as far as Cuba, where there ''was no one who said [her] name for hours at a time.'' Her spare prose does not hold back; it pierces in its quietness, free of judgment or reservation, unabashed. I recoil at the emotional roulette she suffered in the hands of her parents-playing-at-being-parents, easing only when Paula’s humor cuts in, thankfully, as it frequently does.

I love her Uncle Elwood, a minister, the father many of us would wish we had, who took “thinking walks,” who read to her and surrounded her with books, who took her to the grave of Mark Twain, and to the house of Washington Irving to exorcise her fear of the headless horseman.

Though I was bewildered at the sudden fast-forward to the time Paula meets the daughter she put up for adoption, I was quieted by the shades of hope and healing in the memoir’s closing moments. More of that light, please, for Paula Fox, now 78 and discovered and celebrated anew by the literary community.

Some of the luminous lines I enjoyed. There are many more for you to unearth.

Time was long in those days, without measure. I marched through the mornings as if there was nothing behind me or in front of me, and all I carried, lightly, was the present, a moment without end.

...

After downing a few drinks, [my father] would fail in love with his own voice, theatrically honeyed, filled with significant whispers and pauses. He was in thrall to his voice; his thoughts stumbled behind.

...

Could you escape from a divorce the way you could from a marriage? Was it possible to get a divorce from a divorce?

...

I grasped consciously for an instant what had been implicit in every aspect of daily life with Uncle Elwood—that everything counted and that a word spoken as meant contained a mysterious energy that could awaken thought and feeling in both speaker and listener.


* Thank you, dear Polymath, for giving me this book. Your giving was unexpected, and all the more charming and precious for that.



2 comments:

paul said...

i'm really glad you loved the book. even if it's a really painful read, you emerge from it fuller. at least that was how it was to me.

though you might not know it, and even if we don't get to see each other often, you've been a source of great strength for me. giving you the book was just a small thing. thank YOU--from me and s., of course.

janet said...

P, I have no words; my heart is full. Thank you, dear.