Friday, August 15, 2014

Last year, when I drove past the general store in West Danville, Vermont, I found a collection of Rilke's letters in the fifty-cent book bin. This week I found the novel Rituals by Linda Gray Sexton. And, yes, this Sexton is the eldest daughter of that Sexton.

The volume bears a copyright date of 1982 and is packaged as if someone hoped it would have early-80s bestseller potential: busy oversized display fonts, a misty airbrushed cover illustration of a pink-tinged young woman with Pat Benatar hair. She is gazing coyly at a houseplant. Without question, the design contains a soupcon of first-edition Danielle Steele (minus the semi-naked ravishment), but this is how the flap copy summarizes Rituals:
It is Christmas Eve. Kat Sinclair sits in her mother's place at the head of the table, twirling her wine glass and observing the ritual holiday feast around her. She appears to be an independent young woman who has coped surprisingly well with the sudden death of her beautiful mother nine months before. Kat has stepped in and taken charge, despite the discovery of certain peculiar documents in her mother's desk--secrets half-revealed that threaten family myths.
I read that summary and then opened the book to the usual disclaimer ("All characters in this book are fictional and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental"), at which point I burst into laughter and immediately bought the book.

Understand that my laughter contained a large dose of rue alongside the disbelief. As of 1982, most of Linda Gray Sexton's recorded accomplishments were shadows of her mother. The flap bio in Rituals tells me that she had also published a nonfiction work titled Two Worlds: Young Women in Crisis and had edited Anne Sexton: A Portrait in Letters as well as her mother's posthumous collections: The Complete Poems, Words for Dr. Y, and 45 Mercy Street. How does one lead a literary life as the daughter of Anne Sexton? Not easily.

After I finish reading Rituals, I think I will store it on the bookshelf next to Otto Plath's Bumblebees and Their Ways.

1 comment:

Carlene said...

Tangent: Have you ever stopped in at the West Danville General? They often have their own home made sausage...olordy, it's worth stopping for. Actually, it's worth detouring for. =)