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.
spoiling an only child, punishing them both by refusing to give in to what she would have called mawkishness. Tenderness was only safe if given or received by the sick in bed and no wonder Hilary spent such large numbers of weeks as a child being ill! No wonder she had reacted so violently all her life to the fear of feeling, and to the fury who attended it, the sense of guilt. The wonderful thing about the English society into which Hilary had moved when she married Adrian was the total absence
that what had saved her was the summers at Sorrento … but, what did she still have to track down, lost somewhere at the bottom of all her musing like a shining pebble of truth? The lilacs! Now the vision rose up of her mother in the garden, her hands and face scratched and dirty for she had been pruning roses, with a look of extreme sensuous delight as she lifted one dark red rose and buried her nose in it. So, no doubt, she had done with the lilacs, bending them down as if to eat their
from the classic prettiness of Rockport, there were occasional glimpses of the ocean, around a bend, or back of a house. It lay there, stretched silk on this windless day, perfectly serene, silencing the city-bred, opulent background to the tight white houses. “Oh Peter, do stop! I want to look.…” He turned off the road by an old stone pier, beside a lobster joint still boarded up for the winter. They got out and walked down to the end of the pier, taking deep breaths of the air, relieved to
for her and accepted one himself when he had done so. After she had taken two or three quick puffs, with evident relish, she blew a perfect smoke ring. “There, I’ve done it! I can never make a perfect ring when I try for it,” and she looked as delighted as a child who watches a soap bubble float away, but as the smoke vanished into the air, she returned to the theme, “Odd that there has been no great religious woman poet …, that would have seemed to be one way out.” “Out?” Jenny asked. “Out of
come back in an hour or so. Give me time to pull myself together.” He was gone before she closed the window, off and away, while Hilary stood there wondering what sort of night he had spent? Curiously enough she sensed some affinity with her own night of troubled dreams after her long vigil raking up the past—the effect, at least, was the same, for Mar looked exactly as she felt, dissipated, ruffled, a seabird who has been battered by wind, whose wings are stuck with flotsam and jetsam, oil,