The Mysteries Of Life In An Orderly Manner by Jessamyn West, 1948
The magic trick:
Obstructing the story’s main theme until the end
Today begins a week of Jessamyn West stories. That means a trip back in time to post-war California where the suburbs were born among the deserts and ranches and rural communities. Or something like that.
We start with two stories featuring Emily Cooper navigating a new home. I don’t much like this story. I love Jessamyn West stories. I don’t really like this one.
It’s an oddly slight story. There is the setup – Emily waiting with her husband before going in to join a social club in the town. Then there is the action – the parade of townspeople passing by. But all of that’s misleading. It’s a big misdirection. The real story lies in the interactions between husband and wife. She’s not happy. He doesn’t get it. I’m not sure I get it. The story plays coy with its meaning all the way to the end. And that’s quite a trick on West’s part.
Mr. Cooper leaned over, detained her with his hand on her arm. “But you do,” he said. “You always do. What do you want me to say? Want me to be a liar?”
“No,” said Emily, “but if I knew you were critical, it would give me more confidence.”
“Oh, critical!” said Mr. Cooper, surprised. “Why, I’m critical, critical as all getout. That Second Runner, now. She’s bandy-legged. I criticized it in her first thing. They’d ought to have given her the wampum job. Something she could do sitting down, not put her to running.”
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