Monday, December 10, 2012

the last book I ever read (Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, excerpt one)

from Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures by Emma Straub:

Hildy rubbed her temples. She had always had headaches—all the Emerson women did, blackout, knock-down headaches that crowded the sides of their skulls and didn’t let go for days. One of Elsa’s chores was dampening a washcloth and placing it over her mother’s and sisters’ closed eyes, the tiptoeing out of the room. Elsa couldn’t wait to be a woman, to feel things so deeply that she too needed a dark room and total silence. She’d asked her sister about the headaches once, when she could expect them to start, and had been laughed out of the room.

“Honestly, Mother, honestly.” Hildy was the most beautiful of the three Emerson sisters, though Elsa was so young that she hardly counted. Josephine was the oldest and the most like their mother, with a wide, flat face that hardly ever registered any expression whatsoever. It was what their father called A Norwegian Face, which meant it had the look of a woman who had seen fifteen degrees below zero and still gone out to milk the cows. Josephine was inevitably going to marry a boy from one of the cherry farms down the road, and no one thought that they would be anything more or less than perfectly fine.

But Hildy was better than fine. Elsa loved to look at her sister, even when Hildy was having one of her episodes and her blond hair was wild and matted against one side of her head from all her flip-flopping and thrashing in her sleep, and her pale pink skin had flushed and broken out into a crimson red. When she wanted to, Hildy could look like a movie star. It hadn’t come from their mother—that was a fact—neither the raw good looks nor the knowledge of what to do with them. Hildy pored over all the magazine she could find, Nash’s and Photoplay and Ladies’ Companion, and practiced putting on the actresses’ eyeliner in the mirror for hours every day until she got it right. When Hildy was feeling light, as she put it, and the headaches were gone, she wriggled through the house in castoff costumes, and Elsa thought she was as beautiful and lost as a landlocked mermaid.

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