Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Aimless Reading: The J's, Part 2 (Henry James)


The Bostonians
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
James, Henry
The Bostonians


I think I bought this at East Village Books, but I am not sure. I went on a Henry James bender the summer I was moving to Buffalo and this was definitely on the list.

Returning to the places I've lived:

1976: We moved to Vienna, Virginia, a suburb of Washington D.C., which at the time was still half-suburb, half-farmland. I realize now that I left one, temporary, residence off yesterday's list. When we first arrived, our new house was under construction, so my father's employer (Ford Motor Co.) put us up at the Holiday Inn on Rt. 123 in Fairfax. I think we lived there for three months. I don't remember much about it, except that it had a pool and that I liked to go swimming. We moved in June, and I think we were in our new house in time to start the school year in September.

1976: This is the house I lived in longer than any residence of my life. I lived their permanently until I graduated high school in 1986 and then off an on and for a couple of summers in college. By 1990, I was living permanently in New York. I think my parents sold the house in 1992 or so. Too many memories to play, "I remember," on this place, so I'll just describe it physically.

The house was a classic split-level ranch perched on a hillock on a quarter acre of land. It was the second house on the right of a small cul-de-sac comprised of 11 lots. Every other house was a brick-faced colonial, the rest were ranches. It had a long, steep, narrow driveway and a one-car garage. My parents later widened the top of the driveway to fit an extra parking spot near the house. We never used the garage for cars. They also added a basketball hoop on the extension. I used to spend hours by myself at night shooting baskets. I never really got very good at basketball, though -- I was too short, too thin, too weak.

The area had been all horse farms before the fifties and there were at the time several farm properties surrounding the neighborhood. A family owned a ten acres behind us and still had a few cows when we moved in. We used to shoot them with b-b guns as kids, to no apparent effect (either we missed or they didn't feel it, we never knew). Behind them was another horse farm with a huge barn they used to rent out for parties now and again.

When we first moved in the lawn had not even grown in and the whole yard was covered with straw, I guess to protect the seeds from the birds. The exterior was sided in a kind creamy off-white color, with fake orange shutters and a lower portion made of brick. Up the driveway you'd turn right on a little brick walk, then up two steps to a concrete porch/patio and the front door.

Orange was the theme of the house. In addition to the fake orange shutters, we had an orange porcelain tiled floor in the foyer. I am pretty sure we had a kind of burnt orange shag carpet throughout much of the house. Orange linoleum countertops. Orange velvet living room sofa. Orange stained glass chandelier. There was a lot of orange.

Anyhow, you entered into the orange foyer and to the left was the kitchen, straight ahead the living and dining room, to the right a half set of stairs going up and a half set going down (split levels!). Entering the kitchen the stove was to the left, the fridge to the right. The telephone was on the wall to the right before the fridge, wall-mounted, rotary dial. Next to the stove a corner cabinet and then the sink in front of a small window looking out to the front yard.

The counter top continued past the sink sever feet and cut right, creating a bar that more or less divided the cooking area from the eating area. Next to the fridge was a small counter space with cabinets and next to that a pantry with sliding, louvered doors. On the other side of the bar/island stood the kitchen table, with six chairs (five people in the family). There was a picture window looking out to the front yard also. On the wall opposite the entry door was another door leading to the garage. To the right of the door was some kind of closet.

Back to the entry hall: just past the kitchen door, before entering the living room, stood a hall closet. Opposite that, next to the stairs going down, a tall wooden hall tree with a mirror.

The living room/dining room was basically one long room, though there was a double-doorway without doors separating the two. On the right my parents had one of those crazy sixties wooden stereo all-in-one jobs. Speakers, record player and radio tuner all built into one massive piece of heavy, ugly, brown, fake wood furniture. I thin the speakers were covered in orange fabric.

Just past that a stained glass and, I think, copper, or fake copper, chandelier hung from a hook on the ceiling from a dark metal chain. On the outer wall the orange sofa stood before a big picture window that looked out to the back yard. We had two extremely heavy coffee tables, more like end tables, with polished, but textured black granite hexagonal tops and dark wood bases. I think we also had a couple of mustard yellow velvet chairs on the opposite wall.

Our dining room consisted of one, long, expandable table with eight chairs, plus a large hutch that held all the plates and silverware. I remember some of the art. We had a dark, rainy painting of a Brooklyn street lined with parked cars, circa 1945, which I still have. We also had a big flowery painting, mostly orange and yellow, on the wall above the stereo.

To be continued...time for work!

from The Bostonians

'Olive will come down in about ten minutes; she told me to tell you that. About ten; that is exactly like Olive. Neither five nor fifteen, and yet not ten exactly, but either nine or eleven. She didn't tell me to say she was glad to see you, because she doesn't know whether she is or not, and she wouldn't for the world expose herself to telling a fib. She is very honest, is Olive Chancellor; she is full of rectitude. Nobody tells fibs in Boston; I don't know what to make of them all. Well, I am very glad to see you, at any rate.'

These words were spoken with much volubility by a fair, plump, smiling woman who entered a narrow drawing-room in which a visitor, kept waiting for a few moments, was already absorbed in a book. The gentleman had not even needed to sit down to become interested: apparently he had taken up the volume from a table as soon as he came in, and, standing there, after a single glance round the apartment, had lost himself in its pages. He threw it down at the approach of Mrs. Luna, laughed, shook hands with her, and said in answer to her last remark, 'You imply that you do tell fibs. Perhaps that is one.'

'Oh no; there is nothing wonderful in my being glad to see you,' Mrs. Luna rejoined, 'when I tell you that I have been three long weeks in this unprevaricating city.'

'That has an unflattering sound for me,' said the young man. 'I pretend not to prevaricate.'

'Dear me, what's the good of being a Southerner?' the lady asked

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