Thursday, April 2, 2009

Miss Hargreaves, Frank Baker

I have been searching for a copy of Miss Hargreaves to read ever since I came across this Stuck in a Book entry extolling its wonders. Finally I found a copy through the inter-library loan. Hooray!

I knew I had to read this story when I read descriptions of Norman's habit of spontaneously lying to strangers. I can honestly say I have let go of this habit at this point but it is one I shared with Norman for a long time. There is just something so irresistable in telling people who you will never see again (or maybe just sit by for one semester in French class) that you recently left a convent before professing your final vows (because in a situation similar to Maria von Trapp your true calling was in fact a life governing small children).

If I hadn't stopped lying on the spur of the moment reading Miss Hargreaves would have scared me straight. Norman's initially innocent story of an old lady with a pet cockatoo, hip bath, harp, & volume of her own published poetry becomes increasingly frighteningly when Miss Hargreaves appears in the flesh.

"There she was, prowling up and down, tapping the pavement tiles critically with her stick. You immediately felt they were second-rate tiles; you would have said that she had always been used to walking on the best Roman tiles." (p.124)

"Where should I be- where should I be?- without the life you put into me." (p.134)

"Hats, remarked Miss Hargreaves, "were getting so abysmally dull. I felt a gesture had to be made to the world." (p.148)

"They were wretched days for me. When you make something, make it well as I had, endow it with a title, and send it out into the best society, do you sleep easily in your bed when it spurns you and treats you like dust? Do you? If you do, you're a stronger man than I am." (p.206)

"Creative thought creates," I muttered over and over again to myself. I went to sleep with those words on my mind. At three o'clock I woke in a sweat from a nightmare. I won't tell you the nightmare because other people's dreams are always boring and, if it terrified me, I can't expect it to terrify anyone else. The point is, when I woke out of that 'mare, I found myself muttering three words over and over again. And those words were "Destructive thought destroys." (p.225)

"I had from the depths of my misguided compassion for her, silently willed strength into her mysterious being." (p.243)


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