Saturday, October 10, 2009

The New Yorker: "The Godchildren" by Tessa Hadley

Chris, Amanda, and Susan, three adults who had been the godchildren of childless Vivien, visit her house for the first time since her death a year before. Chris, an academic, claims not to remember the house or even Vivien herself. Amanda, who has organized this visit so the three can claim items in the house for themselves before a planned estate sale, has the most vivid, although selective, memory, because she kept a journal back in those days. And Susan, a lawyer, remembers, but is disdainful. They wander around the house, bringing up old memories, in particular one memory of spying on Vivien. Eventually, Susan leaves and Mandy reveals to Chris that Susan had had a crush on him when they were kids, which Chris didn’t realize. He understands that it’s too late to do anything about it, but he and Mandy now feel some “vibration of passion” between them—and a sudden memory returns to Chris of a makeout session he’d had with Mandy back then. The ending of the story spins out to Susan’s consciousness, in her taxi on the way to the station, fingering a small item she’s taken from the house: a pair of carved ivory masks.

Yawn. Seriously. Yawn.

October 12, 2009: “The Godchildren” by Tessa Hadley

5 comments:

Ravi Mangla said...

Can't get into Tessa Hadley stories. As far as TNY regulars go, she might be my least favorite.

Paul Epstein said...

I don't have any insights to make, I'm afraid. In fact, I've even forgotten some of the details Cliff mentions although I read the story quite carefully when it came out.

But, in terms of the overall merit of the author's New Yorker stories (following on from Ravi's more general opinion), I'd like to point out that "She's the One" was very enthusiastically received on this blog.

A rather random comment I'd like to make is that this website seems to get an enormous number of hits (so well done Cliff!)

If you pick a New Yorker story and google key characters or the title, then this website tends to show up right near the top of the google search.

I'm always hoping to hear the authors chip in to discuss their own work on this site, but I've never seen this happen.

Paul Epstein

Anonymous said...

It'll happen eventually, really -- this is the only New Yorker story discussion site I've been able to find. You'd think the magazine would get an Internet forum at some point, but alas, that would be associating with the rabble.

Clifford Garstang said...

In fact, it may have happened already. There was one story last year that prompted many widely divergent comments, and there was one that I thought might--just might--have been the author, using a nom de blog.

Anonymous said...

Read it again. It was more subtle than you and these commenters saw, especially about the connection between youth and age and the enduring effects of exposure to other values and ways. She has a fine hand with characters and a lucid and complicated way of setting forth not only their nature but their conflicting feelings about themselves in the present and in the past.