Friday, June 7, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt three)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

According to the diary kept by Henrietta Slade, Winslow’s daughter-in-law, Dr. Slade, is, at this hour, sequestered away in his favorite corner of the jardin anglais at the Manse, immersed in one of his scholarly pursuits; whether work on Biblical translations, or labor at assembling his old sermons, or scribbling entries in his journal—(this journal to be, unhappily, destroyed in the spring of 1906)—she does not know; but Henrietta does note a “troubling change” in her father-in-law, who had always been of an even, placid disposition, as well-disposed to his family as to his public, rarely irritable or even fatigued or distracted; but lately, Winslow has been “not himself”—quite irritable, fatigued, distracted; and less inclined to spend time with his family, or with friends in the habit of dropping by to visit him in his library, than he had been. Perhaps he is anxious about the wedding, for so many people have been invited. Perhaps he is worrying about the weather, for an outdoor fete is planned here at the Manse. And Henrietta, mother of the bride-to-be, drifts onto pages of fretting about the wedding, of very little interest to History.

And Josiah Slade makes the impulsive decision to join several friends bear hunting in the Poconos, though it is but a few days before his sister’s wedding, in which he is to play a prominent role. “But what if—something happens to you?” Annabel asks, pleading; and Josiah says laughingly, “Nothing will happen to me, I promise,” and Annabel says, “You will return, won’t you? The night before? No later? Josiah?”—almost begging her brother, You will return, you won’t leave me alone to this—will you?

And handsome Lieutenant Dabney Bayard, being fitted in an Egyptian cotton shirt, and slim-tapered trousers, chances to note, out of boredom, a small black insect on the neck of the Italian tailor kneeling before him; idly he reached down to pinch the thing in his fingers, and give it a sharp dig with his nails, with the result that the tailor screams in surprise and pain, and lurches away from Dabney—for the black speck isn’t an insect but a mole or tiny wart, deeply rooted in the man’s flesh.

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