Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Stone Diaries

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields was an incredible book and worthy of the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I read the Penguin paperback edition that was originally published in 1995. It was 365 pages long.

From Amazon:
This fictionalized autobiography of Daisy Goodwill Flett, captured in Daisy's vivacious yet reflective voice, has been winning over readers since its publication in 1995, when it won the Pulitzer Prize. After a youth marked by sudden death and loss, Daisy escapes into conventionality as a middle-class wife and mother. Years later she becomes a successful garden columnist and experiences the kind of awakening that thousands of her contemporaries in mid-century yearned for but missed in alcoholism, marital infidelity and bridge clubs. The events of Daisy's life, however, are less compelling than her rich, vividly described inner life--from her memories of her adoptive mother to her awareness of impending death. Shields' sensuous prose and her deft characterizations make this, her sixth novel, her most successful yet.

Part of what made The Stone Diaries so incredible was the breathtaking writing.

"Which for the most part will be a silent meal, both my parents being shy by nature, and each brought up in the belief that conversing and eating are different functions, occupying separate trenches of time."

"She imagines the soft dough entering the bin of her stomach, lining that bitter, bloated vessel with a cottony warmth that absorbs and neutralizes the poisons of her own body."

"She is a woman whose desires stand at the bottom of a cracked pitcher, waiting."

"The recounting of a life is a cheat, of course; I admit the truth the truth of this; even our own stories are obscenely distorted; it is a wonder really that we keep faith with the simple container of our existence."

"When we think of the past we tend to assume that people were simpler in their functions, and shaped by forces that were primary and irreducible. We take for granted that our forebearers were imbued with a deeper sense of purity of purpose than we possess nowadays, and a more singular set of mind... But none of this is true. Those who went before us were every bit as wayward and unaccountable and unsteady in their longings as people are today."

"The unfairness of this - that a single dramatic episode can shave the fine thistles from a woman's life."

"...[M]ost people who cut themselves off from love commit themselves to lies, hypocrisy, and discouragement..."

"Well, a childhood is what anyone wants to remember of it. It leaves behind no fossils, except perhaps in fiction. Which is why you want to take Daisy's representation of events with a grain of salt, a bushel of salt."

"Women, I learned, needed to be bloody, but they didn't need to be mean."

"My mother is a middle-aged woman, a middle-class woman, a woman of moderate intelligence and medium-sized ego and average good luck, so that you would expect her to land somewhere near the middle of the world. Instead she's over there at the edge. The least vibration could knock her off."

"I was the breakable one. Women always are. It's not so much a question of one big disappointment, though. It's more like a thousand little disappointments raining down on top of each other. After a while it gets to seem like a flood, and the first thing you know, you're drowning."

"In the morning light her hurt seems temporary and manageable, but at night she hears voices, which may just be the sound of her own soul thrashing."

"She knows how memory gets smoothed down with time, everything flattened by the iron of acceptance and rejection..."

"Sometimes she bunches her fists: sometimes tears crowd her eyes as she lies there thinking: another day, another day, and attempting to position herself in the shifting scenes of her life."

"If she's not careful she'll turn into one of those pathetic old fruitcakes who are forever counting their blessings."

"And we require, it seems, in our moments of courage or shame, at least one witness, but Mrs. Fleet has not had this privilege. This is what breaks her heart. What she can't bear."

"Nor, though she knew she had been loved in her life, did she ever hear the words, 'I love you, Daisy' uttered aloud (such a simple phrase), and only during the long, thin, uneventful sleep that preceded her death did she have the wit (and leisure) to ponder the injustice of this."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yes. I liked it very much. The writing was beautiful, the imagery was astounding. Which is good because the characters were hard for me to enjoy, not because they weren't well written but because they were so closed off emotionally. I did grow to really like Daisy at the end.

Maybe I am too much of an optimist to think the it is the norm for people to be detatched like that--or maybe it is the norm and I am just lucky.