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Monday, March 27, 2006

Cornelia and Clare

I'm reading Love Walked In. A strange choice for me as far as title, but I was first attracted by the cover of a child with brown Mary Janes, and brown knee socks - one gathered around her ankle, the other higher, yet not up to the knobby knees, the brown school uniform, the ivory windbreaker. The picture is from her shoes to about midchest, but doesn't show her face. I liked the cover, but almost put it back because of the title. The author's name, though, is Marisa de los Santos. OK - great cover and lovely name. I really like that name. Pick up the book and look at the back cover and there is de los Santos's picture. Hmmm. I like the way she looks; her eyes are bright and have a hint of smile. And she is an award-winning poet with a Ph. D. in literature. So the cover, her name, the photo, and her credentials said, "Try it."

The first chapter- "Cornelia" - almost lost me. Oh, Romance. I didn't think this would be worth the effort. Foreshadowing is an excellent technique, but should be sotto voce, not loud or direct. The second chapter, however, was "Clare" and here is the beginning of interest. Clare is in the fifth grade and sort of "collects' orphans: Anne Shirley, Sara Crewe, Mary Lennox. Oh, yes, I know these orphans. And More: Heidi, Pippi, Tom and Huck, David, Pip, Estella, Oliver, the Boxcar Children! Why even Heathcliffe and Hareton and Jane Eyre. Harry Potter, the Baudelaires, Scout and Jem.

Well, I'm in for the count with Clare. Then it's Cornelia's chapter again...hurry, let's get back to Clare. First, though, a side bar. Cornelia's life imagery centers on old movies. Clare's on her reading. She sorts things and people into categories and discovers that girls "seemed to fall into two categories: girls who used sweetness and girls who used pluck. Little Women contained both kinds of girls." We all know that - Beth and Jo. Sweetness and Pluck.

Cornelia again.

Back to Clare. Clare decides her only choice is pluck and comes to realize that "just because someone can't notice that you're being mean, doesn't mean you're not..." and makes a list of "People who had let life make them hateful. The characters no one wanted to be." Here she puts "Miss Havisham, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, Miss Minchin, Uriah heep, Voldemort, and Snape."
Finished, and as much as I love Clare, the novel is strictly ChicLit. At first, I was eager to get throught the Cornelia chapters and back to the Clare chapters, but toward the end, there was little separation. Predictable novel inspite of attempts to provide twists.

However, I like this poem by de los Santos:

Milagros Mourns The Queen Of Scat
Cebu City, Philippines

It is the same each time. Daylight a broad blade
across the floor, then thin, then gone, the door

shutting behind her, the dimness undisturbed.
This church is cool if anyplace is cool

and almost empty. A few prayers, soft moths,
hover above a few bent heads. She kneels,

a series of flinches. Milagros misses
--sharply--grace, her body's old amplitude,

misses, too, a woman, an American,
she knew only as a voice, a story

in a magazine, photographs. In one,
a man beside her holds a trumpet,

and she makes singing look like laughter. From one,
her eyes gaze out, swimming, behind glasses.

The Virgin, blue vertical, occupies
a corner, hands lifted slightly and turned

up, as if to demonstrate their emptiness.
Her face is inward as an almond. The singer

also had a son, Milagros remembers,
and wonders, suddenly, about the soul

and those long intervals, bridges of pure
sound, spontaneous, leaping free from words.

Voice of cold evenings, fur-collared coats,
glittering towers, snow. Voice of dancing.

Voice a refusal of death. She heard it
and felt the atoms of her body shimmer,

along with all the struck, shimmering atoms
of the air. Voice like pomelo, mango,

jackfruit, papaya, voice like slow ripening,
gold juice, orange meat. Voice changeful as water.

Milagros knows it is her own voice, the one
she never used. When she walks home, her feet

will displace dust into the air; her dress,
a long fall of cotton, purple and yellow

batik, with a square neck, will swing below
her clavicle. She will buy warm, dense rolls

and eat one as she walks. She will shout
and shake a stick at dogs. It's time to leave.

Milagros stands. Slight exahalations rise
from the candles, each one breathing miracle .

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