Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Pattern of Perfection

The stories of Nancy Hale. To quote:
The Pattern of Perfection by Nancy Hale (1908-1988), a collection of thirteen short stories, definitely falls into that genre disdainfully labeled by some as domestic fiction. There's even a recipe tucked into the prose.

Domestic, but not sentimental. Mostly written in the 1950s, the stories hover on  love, marriage, divorce, children, grandchildren, changes in place, and the succession of the generations. Hale's language is brisk and almost airy. Reading them is like taking a walk on a breezy warm day in March. But movement is driven not by plot; a mother returns her child to boarding school, in "Slow Boat to China"; a grandmother in New England takes her grandson for a boat ride in "Flotsam"; a young widow takes her five-year-old son to the graduation at her late husband's college. On a Halloween evening in "The Haunting," a widowed grandmother watches her daughter, newly separated from her husband and now back home with her two children, go trick or treating. Contemplation, memory, self-revelation are the themes.

Some stories center on displaced northerners in the South, as Hale was herself, moving from New York to Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1936, where she lived for the rest of her life. In the story "A Pattern of Perfection," Hale touches on disparities between the northern and southern way of life and the longing for home. "A New Place" tells of the frustration and discoveries of a northern woman recently moved to Virginia  as she attempts to meet the doyen who lives next door.

I liked all these stories by Nancy Hale, whom I encountered thanks to Frisbee: A Book Journal. Hale was born in Boston and was the daughter of two painters, Philip L. Hale and Lilian Westcott Hale. Although her parents were artists, she grew up in the environment of proper Boston society and then shifted her venue to New York City in 1928, where she worked as an editorial assistant and part-time model for Vogue and then as a reporter and fiction writer. (Read entire post.)

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