Deal Me In 2017 Challenge: Week 2


This week I drew the 5 of Hearts, which corresponds to the impressionistic short story, “The Idea of Age” by Elizabeth Taylor.   The unnamed narrator is a ten year old girl who clearly has a lot of anxiety about getting older.  She has a great fear of her mother’s death which she expresses obliquely:  she likes to read books about children who have dead mothers provided that the woulds are healed.

She carefully guards her mother along with a “mother-figure” in the form of a dramatic Mrs. Vivaldi who summers in the same place that the girl and her family go.  Mrs. Vivaldi is a larger-than-life dramatic woman, who recites Shakespeare and plays with her long pearls.  Mrs. Vivaldi also speaks a lot about being old.

Our narrator resolves no mysteries here, but she does give us a compelling portrait of the anxieties of a pre-adolescent girl who is worried about the concept of age, of growing old, and of the potential segue into death.

“When I was a child, people’s aged did not matter; but age mattered.  Against the serious idea of age I did not match the grown-ups I knew—who had all an ageless quality—though time unspun itself from year to year, Christmases lay far apart from one another, birthdays ever further; but that time was running on was shown in many ways.  I ‘shot out’ of my frocks, as my mother put it.  By the time I was ten, I had begun to discard things form my heart and to fasten my attention on certain people whose personalities affected me in a heady and delicious way” begins the story.

And me too.  For some strange reason,  certain “celebrities” of all types grabbed my imagination which clung to them.  For some, it was a name:  C. Douglas Dillon–secretary of the treasury.  What could the C. stand for?   There was Liz and Eddie and Debbie.  JFK and Jackie.  I started reading newspapers and I lavished as much attention on The New York Times as I did on Photoplay.  T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost were alive.  At that age I could not and did not sort out the relative importance of Pat Boone and Nikita Krushchev; Edward Villella and Shirley Jones; Katherine Anne Porter and Princess Margaret Rose.  They were all, in sundry ways, Mrs. Vivaldis for me.



Author: Gubbinal

Bookish, tea-drinking cat-lady who loves great poetry and music and is in the midst of dying

10 thoughts on “Deal Me In 2017 Challenge: Week 2”

  1. Larger-than-life are everywhere in fiction, non-fiction and real life. I will have to look more carefully in the books I read for this ‘archetype’ ! Your list of people from the past does bring back memories. I wanted to add one more…Burton and Taylor (Dick and Liz).


  2. I love that playing card! Seeing all these cool ‘novely’ decks of cards is another entertaining aspect of Deal Me In for me. 🙂

    I find it interesting when author can successfully re-animate the feelings we once had when we were younger and looking at life through a different lens, which it seems Taylor did in this story.


  3. This sounds like a great story. The themes of death, mother figures, and the attractions of the larger-than-life characters around us really resonates with me. The people you mention still have such powerful cultural weight as well as evoking a particular era. It’s fascinating.


    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, the mother figures are an evergreen topic in literature. I’m also reading Proust for a year-long challenge and his longing for his mother’s goodnight kiss is so evocative and provocative.

      Liked by 1 person

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