In Greenwich, There Are Many Gravelled Walks by Hortense Calisher, 1950
The magic trick:
Separating the story into three distinct, but linked, dramas
What an odd story. It feels very British. Very Brideshead.
It is essentially tells three stories in one. First, we have the portrait of Peter’s mother, whose routines alternate between alcoholic and institutionalized. Next, we get a snapshot of the local bohemian, art, gay scene, which includes the memorable character of Robert. And finally, we have the connection between Susan, Robert’s daughter, and Peter. Two young adults picking up the pieces in the wake of the parents’ inability to function as adults.
Like I said, it’s an odd story, a sad story. Three-for-one; thrice as memorable. And that’s quite a trick on Calisher’s part.
It was curious, he supposed now, stubbing out a final cigarette, that he had never judged resentfully either his mother or her world. By the accepted standards, his mother had done her best; he had been well housed, well schooled, even better loved than some of the familied boys he had known. Wisely, too, she had kept out of his other life, so that he had never had to be embarrassed there except once, and this when he was grown, when she has visited his Army camp. Watching her at a post party for visitors, poised there, so chic, so distinctive, he had suddenly seen it begin: the feat, the scare, the compulsive talking, which always started so innocently that only he would have noticed at first – that warm, excited, buttery flow of harmless little lies and pretensions which gathered its dreadful speed and content and ended then, after he had whipped her away, just as it had ended this morning.