Tribute to Patricia A. Stone’s “All Things Considered” presented by Lorraine Schuett on Thursday, May 15, 2008 at Titles Bookstore, Peterborough, Ontario.
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“Marilyn is coming down the hall. Pieces of colored glass dangle in the air. A soft breeze passes through the chimes-- like fingers over the strings of a silver harp. Her perfume is strong, like honey softening in a patch of hot sunlight. The sweetness thickens in the air and spreads like syrup, a surprise behind the sting of ammonia and rubbing alcohol.
Margaret looks out the hospital window to see if the seagull is still soaring like an eagle. It`s gratifying to have Mother speaking again after so many weeks of miserable silence, an especially long stretch this time because Margaret broke the most important rule. She exploded with reckless anger. One afternoon, in a moment of confusion and unforgivable acting – out, she knocked a lamp off a table and it smashed. But appendicitis has forced her mother to forget about the lamp, at least for the time being. She has been forced to start talking to Margaret again, and gently. Even thought she knows it`s not right, Margaret secretly appreciates having a poisonous appendix.” [This is a taste of excerpts from the opening chapter of All Things Considered by Patricia Stone]
Good evening – I’m Lori Schuett
I would like to welcome all of you- friends of Patricia Stone- to the launch of her newest collection of short stories, All Things Considered. As a dear friend of Patricia`s, I am honoured to speak about this impressive and memorable narrative and to share this special evening with so many of her friends.
I have known Patricia for several years and have always admired her many talents. At the Bridge table she is a force to be reckoned with - never backing away from a bid even when she shouldn`t be thinking of opening and when she wins, it is ‘straight to the slots’ to quote Patty - with her token loony and tooney coins. Patricia also paints, plays the mandolin, cooks up a storm, grows much of her own produce, and is a warm and wonderful host to all of her guests. As for golf her favourite saying when her ball rolls around the cup but fails to drop is ‘Oh one more snatched from the jaws of victory’- this remark is often made while trudging across the green.
And as for yoga in Julian Lake, just ask Ray what he thinks about the Pretty Perfect Precious Princesses!
Her loyalty and care for her friends, her sense of humour, her zest for life are indeed special traits that endear Patricia to
Patricia holds Masters degrees in both English Literature and Creative Writing and taught Literature, Creative Writing and Communications for 30 years.
We are here this evening to celebrate her gifted writing skills with the publication of All Things Considered. Following her previous two collections of short stories, Close Calls in 1991, and Through Any Window in 1996, this newest narrative presents a different framework in that, although the stories can be read as separate entities, each story is connected by the journey through various stages of life of the protagonist, Margaret Lovell. I must say the name Lovell was quite a story for both Patricia and me as the name comes from the drugstore E.A. Lovell in Oshawa where both Patty and I grew up. I worked as a store clerk at Lovell`s during my high school years and it was my favourite haunt to indulge in an old fashioned beverage at the soda bar.
Patty calls the format of All Things Considered a ‘Hybrid Literary Animal’- something between a short story collection and a novel. From the very first page, All Things Considered is an engaging work of characterization, settings, and themes with which we can readily identify – growing up, uncertainty and rebellion, mother/ daughter relationships, sibling communications, first love, first job, university life, and letting go--to name a few. But it is the magic of Patricia’s crackling prose, sensuous and vivid descriptions, her witticisms and poignant observations as both omniscient and first-person narrator that entice the reader to delve deeply into each chapter, to become intimately attached to Margaret, a headstrong, lovable, intelligent, witty, imaginative, and perceptive female protagonist. [are these the characteristics of someone we know and love??!!]
Each story – such as “Girl Guides,” “The Riding Instructor,” “The Beating Heart,” “The Feral Woman” -- is a vignette of life, of emotions -- reflective, vibrant, nostalgic, remorseful, funny, sad -- feelings that propel the reader backward to a time- period familiar to many of us who grew up in Margaret`s era, as Patricia weaves an intriguing account of a young adolescent female`s take on life and some of the things that were important to her – “Leave it To Beaver,” selling Regal Cards, Hayley Mills, and swilling Mateus from wineskins. And we are compelled to turn the page and go forward.
One of the most memorable characters, however, is that of Margaret`s acerbic yet tragic mother, whom Patricia crafts perfectly as a woman bitter and empty in her life who does not know how to love.
To choose a passage to read has been a difficult task for there are many that have stayed with me. One of the things I love
about Patty`s writing in this collection is her ability for cadences. In music a cadence is a chord that marks the end of a phrase in
classical music, providing a type of punctuation—the ‘Amen” if you will.
Let me share a few: “And she would leave this span of life behind like an undesirable possession”[ before Margaret leaves for university].
“’Whenever you don`t want to do something, just think about how long you`re going to be dead’, someone once told her.”
In All Things Considered, there many evocative descriptions:
“She wanders into the kitchen wearing her housecoat, and sees the top of Genevieve`s head through the window, her curly brown hair lifting like question marks in the breeze.” [ a woman Margaret meets while on her travels in France]
‘She had thin lips and they were wrinkled, like the skin of a rotting apple.”
[ Margaret`s description of her riding instructor]
“I used to have students working here – boys and girls. They used to bring in their essays to work at when business was slow. They got me to help them . You know what I always told them? Essays should be like mini-skirts, long enough to cover the subject, and short enough to keep your interest.” [restaurant owner]
“At a gas station on the way home, to be outrageous, she had removed her blouse in the front seat of the car. The attendant washed the windshield leaning sideways.”
[ Margaret after having had too much to drink with her boyfriend]
The passage I chose to read is to me one of the most touching in the collection centering on the tumultuous relationship between Margaret and her mother, and in this passage mother shows her need to forgive:
There has been another row. She angers her mother. She drops a glass and breaks it.
"I think you'd be better off at an orphanage than here. I think you'd be happier living with strangers," Mother says. Her face collapses into a look of fear and sickness.
Margaret leaves the house. She is small. She studies the sidewalk squares beneath her feet, astonished at how close she is to the earth. The thing that lives inside her torso, the darkness, which takes the shape of a monkey with claws and unwholesome breath, rips her from the inside. Its claws drag across her interior. The street does something odd and upsetting. It looms like a tube or tunnel, like the great gourd in the painting of Thanksgiving, swollen and misshapen. The asphalt looks like liquid suddenly and begins to move, like a balloon being twisted into the funny figure of a giraffe.
"Margaret! Come back here."
She turns. She does not want the women in the other homes to see how awful things are. Her mother is waving from the front porch.
"Come back here for a minute."
The street balloons like an impossibly big bubble; the sidewalk buckles and stretches into the distance.
I don't want to go back, Margaret thinks. She deduces what has just taken place. Her mother has watched her moving along the sidewalk and has felt an unusual, urgent sense of regret. Or perhaps of alarm. Out of a desire for revenge, Margaret doesn't want to give her mother the opportunity to be sorry. But she does. She must. She pushes her feet and her legs back up the street. Mother hugs her. It is an awkward and embarrassing moment. Margaret turns without looking up again. She leaves the front porch and walks into the street, which is still undulating, moving like a liquid animal.
Patricia will be available for book signing at the table. Please take a moment to enjoy the beautiful watercolour, ‘Girl by the
Lakeshore’ that graces Patty`s book cover- this was presented to Patty by the artist, Richard Hayman, on September 20 just a
few days before he died. The painting was based on a photograph by Ray Saitz.
In the introduction to her readers, Patricia writes that when she first started to pen words to paper, the flavour of words
tasted better than candy. In All Things Considered that flavour remains in brilliant language that scintillates, probes, and lingers
like the taste of exquisite chocolate.
Patricia, we congratulate you -- a woman of fortitude, compassion, generosity, and talent, and we toast to your continued
success in all that you do.
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