Blending memories and family myths, Mary McCarthy takes us back to the twenties, when she was orphaned in a world of relations as colourful, potent and mysterious as the Catholic religion. There were her grandmothers: one was a blood-curdling Catholic who combined piousness and pugnacity; the other was Jewish and wore a veil to hide the disastrous effects of a face-lift. There was wicked Uncle Myers who beat her for the good of her soul and Aunt Margaret who laced her orange juice with castor oil and taped her lips at night to prevent unhealthy 'mouth-breathing'. 'Many a time in the course of doing these memoirs,' Mary McCarthy says, 'I have wished that I were writing fiction.' But these were the people, along with the ladies of the Sacred Heart convent school, who helped to inspire her devastating sense of the sublime and ridiculous and her witty, novelist's imagination.
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(198mm x 129mm x 12mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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US Kirkus Review »
A perhaps misleadingly restrictive title for a folio of some eight autobiographical pieces dealing with Mary McCarthy's past when as the eldest of "poor Roy's children"- her parents died during the influenza epidemic of 1918- she shuttled between two sets of grandparents and three religions- Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. Under the monitory supervision of the Catholic McCarthys in Minneapolis, the four young ones were turned over to a blood relative, Aunt Margaret- a "well-aged quince of 45" whose regimen of prunes and parsnips, no toys or books was supplemented by the capricious brutality of her husband Myers. Removed by "the Protestants", her grandfather Preston and his Jewish wife, to Scattle, there followed a period of quieter discipline in a Catholic convent where she lost her faith; the transfer to an Episcopalian boarding school and infractions of another nature; a summer in Montana and her introduction to whisky under the tutelage of a married druggist; and the pieces conclude with an unforgettable portrait of her grandmother Augusta Morgenstern and the elaborate ritual of her days.... Time has not dulled the sharpness of the image and incident here, and the portraiture has an exceptional definition to which the polished prose- there is never a flubbed phrase- is certainly contributory. There is also a warmth, and an often gamine charm, absent from her fiction, which may attract others beyond her anticipated audience (although Catholic readers have already been aroused on the initial publication of these pieces.) (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Mary McCarthy
Mary McCarthy was a well-known novelist, critic, journalist and memoirist. She was born in Seattle, of mixed Catholic, Protestant and Jewish descent. She died in October 1989.