Wednesday, August 2, 2017

An Old Friend

When I saw this book on display in my local library, I grabbed it because I thought it was actually going to be a book about fairy tales. Like, fractured fairy tales that have been modernized and reimagined. When I read the inside flap, I realized that the title was a bit misleading, but I decided to give it a try anyways. I guess I'm at that age now when I enjoy reading amusing anecdotes about getting older, and failed attempts at recapturing youth and beauty and bittersweet recollections of "what could have been".

Most of the poems and stories were enjoyable, although they weren't as funny as I was hoping. Most of them operate on a very upscale Manhattan, type of humor that references Botox, nannies,  summer homes, and Ivy Leagues. And it's not a tongue in cheek poke at this way of living like in The Nanny Diaries or The Devil Wears Prada; it's written in a way that assumes the reader will relate. Like, instead of "We were running late this morning, so for breakfast my kid had a doughnut from the gas station", it's the nanny who can't prepare breakfast for her charge because they don't have anymore organic spinach for the egg white omelette, so she stops in at Dean and Deluca and buys him a toasted bagel with lox.  .  .Yeah.  .  .I hate when that happens.  .  . .

So I read the book and I appreciated the things I could relate to, like not fitting into the same size jeans anymore, or remembering with a very bitter taste in my mouth the moment when I first realized that there's a different set of rules for women.

However, towards the back of the book, I found an old friend. How old? Well, she'd be 187 this December, but I've only known her since I was a teenager.

 Well, it's not  really her, but it's obviously an homage to her. 

"A man with a scythe rang my doorbell.
I saw him through the peephole.
I said he had the wrong apartment.
He said he wanted me.
I told  him to go away.
He laughed and left.  .  ."

If you're not the biggest fan of Transcendentalist/Romantic writers (although honestly, how can anyone not be?), then I'll just tell you that Sheila Nevins took a page from Emily Dickinson:

"Because I could not stop for Death-
He kindly stopped for me-
The carriage held but just Ourselves-
And Immortality.   .  ."

Dickinson personifies Death as a gentleman caller, and the speaker follows the etiquette of the time period by agreeing to accompany him on a carriage ride, with a chaperone of course (Immortality). In Nevins' poem, the speaker is also greeted by Death outside her door, and she also follows suit with the behavior typical of a modern New Yorker- telling him to go away.

I think this chapter is the one that made me smile the most, because I imagined Emily Dickinson yelling at Death through the peephole in a thick New Yorker accent.
I wonder what she'd order on her pizza.  .  .

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