"Frankie, you got the sharpest set of human bones I ever felt."
So I re-read Carson McCuller's The Member of the Wedding last week and found myself marking it up with multicoloured fine-liners as every page had something that sighed and hummed and stirred. It's one of those sweet ache books. Frankie, 12, rejected by the neighborhood girls, spends her afternoons in the kitchen with Berenice and John Henry talking herself into being and then not knowing what to do when she gets there. Frankie (aka F. Jasmine) is in love with her brother's forthcoming wedding. She has a private dream that her brother and his bride will take her away. Frankie's feeling of being caged is palpable. The text is hypnotic, it's like the words are tying you up as you read. It's slip-knot fiction that makes your throat and heart constrict as it gets closer and closer to The Event that is the wedding. And then - we don't see the wedding, we only read about it and not until page 168 (of 189). "The wedding was like a dream outside her power..." It is nothing like Frankie imagined. "her cheap heart hurt. It was a framed game. The cards were stacked ..."
This is a strange and beautiful novel - I kept waiting for an epiphany or some huge evidence of change, but there is none of that. There is just the accruing sadness, loneliness. The novel ends hopefully (beautiful last line!) but I don't know that Frankie's grown. I read this in my early twenties, but it didn't have such an impact on me then, other than I loved its poetry. I wonder if it's one of those books that resonates only after you've racked up some big sads. It also reminded me of the short film Crackerbag (Glendyn Ivin) and the idea of the first big disappointment... that is surely our entry into adulthood.
"It was the hour when the shapes in the kitchen darkened and voices bloomed. They spoke softly and their voices bloomed like flowers - if sounds can be like flowers and voices bloom. F. jasmine stood with her hands clasped behind her head, facing the darkening room. She had the feeling that unknown words were in her throat, and she was ready to speak them. Strange words were flowering in her throat and now was the time for her to name them."