Thursday, 27 November 2014

Thanksgiving Special: Getting to be the Grown-Ups

the book: The Other Side of Winter by Benjamin Markovits

published 2005

 






Amy’s father called, some Saturday afternoon in October, to say that why didn’t the whole family come to hers for Thanksgiving, if she didn’t mind. From that moment she stopped at least two or three times a day in the middle of whatever she was doing to look forward to it…

She spent the afternoon of their arrival, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, growing increasingly anxious. Charles had slept over the night before, since her holidays began that morning… Amy kicked him out of bed at last, and out of her door, claiming the hundreds of things she had to do to prepare for Thanksgiving…

When the turkey had been got, and everything else in the fridge left on the counter to make space for it, and the cans of candied yams stacked neatly on top of the shelf. When the bags of stuffing, two kinds, had been stuck behind the cereal boxes, and the sack of potatoes, despaired of, pushed to a corner of the floor. When she had bought not only a blend of fresh coffee for her dad from the toniest deli in her neighbourhood but a coffee-maker to brew it in… and hauled two six-packs of beer up the walk-up... When she had stripped her bed and laid on fresh sheets and a duvet for her parents… When she had begun to be overwhelmed by a sense of consumption outstripping the heartiest appetite, of the leftovers to linger week-long in her fridge, kept under saran-wrap on a fatty platter as token and evidence of her family visit, then discarded at last, with a heart as cold as the turkey.

Then she sat down and waited for them to come.









HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL BLOG READERS



Outside the USA, we think we know a lot about Thanksgiving – from films and TV series mostly – but really we don’t. I lay claim to knowing a bit more, from having lived in Seattle for six years, and have very fond memories of the feast – of its friendliness, its inclusiveness, its happy feeling, its co-operative nature, and just the idea that you would celebrate being grateful.

In the nature of things I didn’t do a family feast – our friends were our family – but I think everyone can empathize with Amy above: she has become the hostess, she is no longer the young woman flying home for Thanksgiving. She wants everything to go well, and at first it will… but this is a serious literary novel, so don’t expect too much happiness.

The book is a set of four interlinked short stories, one for each season of the year: each one takes up a minor character from a previous one. It seems to have also been published under the name Fathers and Daughters. Markovits looks at their lives and their thoughts and their dreams in detail. More New York intellectuals doing some over-thinking, you could say. Similar to Brian Morton’s A Window Across the River, on the blog recently but I think the Morton was better. Also, not sure about the ‘that’ in the first line above.

I did like this:
There are two kinds of things that happen in the world, the things you can’t do anything about and the things you can. The first writers call description; the second, plot.
A neat aphorism.

Have a great Thanksgiving, even if you’re not in America.

The picture is from the NYPL.

 

10 comments:

  1. Moira, I wasn't aware that Thanksgiving was associated with harvest and was, therefore, also known as Harvest Festival. I mention this because Harvest Festival is also celebrated in India, known variously in different states of the country. As in the West, it is also a national holiday in India. We are bound by so many common customs and festivals.

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    1. That's so interesting, thanks for sharing that with us Prashant. It is nice to think we have these things in common.

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  2. Probably not a book for me, but I echo your good wishes especially for all your American readers.

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    1. Thanks Col, it's a moment for thinking about our common good...

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  3. Thanks, Moira, for the good wishes. And just reading that snippet you shared reminds me of all the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving as I was growing up. It's not quite as crazy around here, since I simply don't have the time to go full out. But I certainly understand how Amy feels...

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    1. I'm glad your day is relaxed! All the best to you and yours.

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  4. Moira: Back in October when Canada has Thanksgiving Sharon and I went to a community turkey supper sponsored by the Ministerial Association for those Melfort residents who did not have family to share the holiday. Guests contributed what they wanted to pay for the meal. With neither of our sons home we were glad we had an alternative.

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    1. That sounds excellent, what a great idea and a good way to celebrate the feast.

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  5. That sounds like a lovely book, Moira. I love the idea of linked stories picking up a new character in each.

    We had a wonderful very quiet Christmas here, my son did some cooking but we keep it very simple. Thanks for the good wishes.

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    1. Tracy, I'm glad you had a good day. I like to think of my American friends when Thanksgiving comes around each year.

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