Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing: A Novel
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Sarton’s most important novel tells the story of a poet in her seventies, whose life is retold episodically during an interview with two writers from a literary magazine
Hilary Stevens’s prolific career includes a provocative novel that shot her into the public consciousness years ago, and an oeuvre of poetry that more recently has consigned her to near-obscurity.
Now in the twilight of her life, Hilary, who is both a feminist and a lesbian, is receiving renewed attention for an upcoming collection of poems, one that has brought two young reporters to her Cape Cod home.
As Hilary prepares for the conversation, she recalls formative moments both large and small. She then embarks on the interview itself—a witty and intelligent discussion of her life, work, and romantic relationships with men and women. After the journalists have left, Hilary helps a visiting male friend with his anxiety over being gay and imparts wisdom about channeling his own creative passions.
This ebook features an extended biography of May Sarton.
the mirror on the kitchen wall to be reassured. “Pale as death,” she uttered to the mirror. The night had taken its toll. You can’t review a whole life, a life like mine, in twelve hours, and not feel the weight. “Up and at ’em!” she said aloud. First, the dishes must be washed. Fortunately she had had a window cut over the sink, so washing the dishes could be done absent-mindedly while looking out for birds. That oriole she had heard might be in the apple tree; also she could keep an eye out
The house was full of presences; she who lived here alone was surrounded by angels or ghosts, perhaps by both. Yes, it had an atmosphere like its creator, Jenny decided, of contained pressure, of something fiercely controlled. Lifting her eyes to the small figure standing there alone at the end of the room, she wondered what was flowing back with such force into that consciousness? For the withdrawal had been less a withdrawal, Jenny felt, than a strong compulsion toward something else, someone
in which there was no rest for either of them, Hilary had learned a great deal about Phillippa. She was the oldest of a family, all girls, of an impoverished Unitarian minister in Springfield, the only one to be sent to college so far, and she was earning the money now to help her younger sister get an education. Everything in her background had built in the need to serve, but Hilary had dug under that hard crust to the person inside, to the hidden seed of revolt, to the hunger for personal
silent voice in the house in France, the Muse who couldn’t be approached in the flesh, was the perfect Muse?” Peter asked. “What was it about her?” “Hard to pin down even now. Let me begin with the house itself. It was tangible enough. It had an atmosphere!” “What kind of atmosphere?” “Cool and passionate,” came the instant response. “Like a note in music, it seemed to me an absolute. In the first place it was rather formal, long French windows downstairs, a few carefully chosen pieces of
poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self. Will that do?” “Thank you,” Peter said, and quickly made a note on his pad. “Without Luc’s visits it might all have been impossible: together he and Anne challenged me, and in almost the same way, curiously enough. For him she had become, I sensed, a legend, a modern incarnation of the Lady with the Unicorn in the tapestry. She fitted in with his absolute ideas, was capable like him of living in an absolute world, and had bought the house to be