Tuesday, March 26, 2019

the last book I ever read (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story, excerpt eleven)

from John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story:

As for Lee and Emma Adler, Williams simply dropped their card into the wastebasket. Williams had no need to curry favor with the Adlers anymore. Lee Adler had been up to his old tricks, anyway. He had just returned from the White House, where he had received a National Medal of Arts award and posed for photographs with President and Mrs. Bush. This only made him more hateful to Williams and to most of the people who would be attending his party. On top of that, Adler had become embroiled in a bitter fight locally over his plan to build new Victorian-style housing for blacks in downtown Savannah. Adler’s scheme called for row upon row of identical house covered with vinyl siding and jammed together with no lawns or green spaces in between. The Historic Savannah Foundation had risen up in angry opposition, decrying the substandard quality of Adler’s proposed dwellings. Adler had been forced to redesign the project, putting in green spaces and replacing vinyl siding with wood. Jim Williams knew that the guests at his Christmas party would be eager to exchange views about Lee Adler’s latest activities without fear of being overheard by him or Emma. No problem; they would not be there.

Williams also dropped Serena Dawes’s card into the wastebasket—but sadly, and for a different reason. Some months earlier, Serena had decided that the 1930s and 1940—the days of her glamorous full-page ads in Life magazine—had been the high point of her life and that it would be downhill from here on. She announced that she would die on her birthday, and she thereupon refused to leave the house or receive visitors or eat. After several weeks, she was taken to the hospital, where one night she summoned her doctor and nurses and thanked them graciously for looking after her. By morning she was dead. She had not died of starvation or committed suicide by any conventional means. She had simply willed herself to die, and being a strong-willed woman, she had succeeded. She had missed dying on her birthday by two days.

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