Page 21


Our outstanding lunches have been an Austin must for eleven years. Our international grocery features food and wine from around the world. Come see us at our new home. MARKET MIMISET 1610 San Antonio Austin, Tex. 78701 472-1900 Hours: 7am 7pm Mon. to Fri. and 8am 6pm on Sat East Dallas Printing Company Full Service Union Printing 211 S. Peak Dallas, Tx 75226 esteem. Lest it sound too much like Sue Miller’s excellent The Good Mother, note that Tuxedo Park succeeds without Furman’s recourse to any of the prurient pyrotechnics that Miller used in telling her story. Furman does it quietly, and her success is no less than Miller’s. Laura Furman teaches creative writing at the University of Texas. Tuxedo Park is her fourth book. Her first, The Glass House collection of five stories and a novella, the title piece. In the collection Furman began to explore some of the ideas that she later developed more fully in Tuxedo Park: loss of love, abandonment, marital discord, and flight from responsibility. Clarity and a closely ‘detailed descriptive style were displayed in that book. The Shadow Line Furman’s first novel, also deals with interpersonal disaster, but the atmosphere of the book a murder mystery set in pre-oilrecession Houston distracts the reader from the inner lives of the novel’s characters. Furman’s third book, Watch Time Fly is again a collection of stories, and there is much in it that signals Tuxedo Park ahead. There is Nessa, for example, in “Buried Treasure,” waiting in the country for her husband Vance to return. Furman’s women, in fact, do a lot of waiting for their men, and they fill their time with gardening and tending house. Houses figure prominently in Furman’s fiction they have all the force of characters. In Furman’s landscape it is possible to do things with a house that could never be done with a person. It’s possible, of course, to patch and care for a house; but it’s also possible to actually rebuild it recreating as creation. A house, for its part, can be loving mother, stern father, wayward child. And it can be process a never-ending succession of things to do. So it is with a garden. And Sadie Ash spends a lot of time worrying over her house and garden, dreamily waiting for Willard to come home. Tuxedo Park itself is no less a character in the novel than are people, houses, and gardens. The Park had Sadie as its first Jew, and finally proves to be a safe harbor for the familial jetsam of Willard’s life. The Weaver family has kept a house in the Park for years, and the Park accommodates Sadie by being a convenient hideaway, in which she can safely snooze away year,s of her life. Willard continues to live in a kind of Tuxedo Park of the mind a life of irresponsibility and homelessness. He and Cherry travel all over the world, never putting down roots, always moving on before they feel tied to a place. Willard abroad is no less asleep no less dead to the rich possibilities in life than is Sadie at home. Here is Willard, describing the Park to Sadie: “It wasn’t NewpOrt or New ,York, neither one season nor the next. It was a stopping point where people came in between the places they really wanted to be.” A perfect place, in short, for Sadie to be an “in between” sort of place, between the places she really wanted to be. And what does Sadie do in this place? She sleeps, suspended between Willard and the future. A friend in the Park describes her like this: “You don’t leave because you’re under an enchantment . . . You’re the sleeping princess of the Park.” Furman has an eye for the telling detail, and her descriptions are precise and well made. About her daughter’s school teachers, she writes: “The tables at school were low, made Tor children, yet the teachers sat on the small chairs. The teachers ‘ stuffed used Kleenex up the sleeves of their cardigans.” Furman’s writing is precise because she sees clearly: “Willard’s smile revealed a row of white teeth, its perfection broken by one cuspid slightly out of line.” The same economy of attention to detail is afforded everyone and everything in the book there are no throwaway characters and no throwa way scenes. Sadie, no less than Furman, keeps an eye on the details and seems to know that in life, as in fiction, details are everything: “What a pair of eyes I am, Sadie thought, watching other people.” THERE IS great compassion and humanity in this book. Sadie thinks, “The trick was to stay married,” but failing that, she succeeds in recreating herself. Surely that’s a harder trick than good gardening, and certainly more difficult magic than is needed to rebuild a house. Early in the novel there is a scene that foreshadows Sadie’s clinging to Willard: “Willard looked down at her,” Furman writes, “and, with a sigh, took her in his arms, first enfolding her, then kissing her, and he was surprised by the strength of her hold.” Eventually Sadie loosens that hold and finds new strength and reason in her children , and self. By then the Kennedy era is upon the country. Even at. Tuxedo Park, that old bastion of WASPish privilege and manner, things are changing. “The women wore big sunglasses and had hair that swooped obligingly on either side of a middle part, like Jackie Kennedy’s, even though everyone said it was a shame Jack Kennedy had won, and they dressed like her too, as much as Tuxedo life allowed.” Tuxedo Park is the most effective kind of magic spare, precise, and controlled. And, like Vermeer’s painting, it is richly detailed, perfectly balanced, and suffused with Mystery. The viewer, looking at “Young Woman with a Water Jug,” wonders, What will the woman at the window do next? And so it is’ with Sadie. What, the reader wonders, will she do with her new life? What will she do with her second chance? We know, of course, that Tuxedo Park and the world will reel in shock at Kennedy’s death; but what will the future bring to Sadie, Marilyn, and Louise? The novel begs for a sequel, and I’ve heard that one is in the works. Furman’s readers and I hope there will be many will be eager for whatever follows Tuxedo Park. ANDERSON & COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSONSQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS Ma 512 .453-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip 20 DECEMBER 19, 1986