Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Spoon River Anthology (2)

Edgar Lee Masters. New York: Collier Books. A Division of Macmillan Publishers Co. 1915.

Why read it? Epitaphs in poetic form. Concise. Cryptic. Subtle. Often bitter. From the grave, the characters summarize their lives. Each poem is a potential short story.

“Judge Somers”: In life successful, in death he appears to be less honored than the town drunk—the equality of death. p. 35.

“Benjamin Pantier.” Marriage. Lawyer, reduced to existence in his back room by his strong-willed wife with only his faithful dog for companionship. He and his dog are buried together. p. 37.

“Mrs. Benjamin Pantier.” Marriage. Wife’s point of view. She’s an aristocratic woman married to a man whose common ways she despises. p. 38.

“Reuben Pantier.” Experienced man of the world recalls why he became so and the faith of Emily Sparks which recalls him to the idealism of his youth when she was his teacher. p. 39.

Trainor the Druggist.” A druggist who mixes chemicals reflects on the human mixtures in marriage and notes that he died unbedded. p. 41.

“Daisy Fraser.” Town prostitute. Her fines contributed to the school fund. The town’s “Society for Social Purity” should have had to pay for their sins. At least Daisy was contributing to the pubic good. p. 42.

“Benjamin Fraser.” In crushing the lives of others, he destroyed his own appreciation of life. p. 43.

“Minerva Jones.” Ugly woman who was a poet. “I thirsted so for love!/ I hungered so for life!” p. 44.

“Indignation Jones.” Judged from his outside appearance, “Indignation” Jones was unkempt and coarse. In reality, he came from good Welsh stock, and was very sensitive. Bruised by life, by a slatternly wife, by the mistreatment of his daughter Minerva by those around her, he became what you saw him. He’s glad to be dead. p. 45.

“Doctor Meyers.” Tried to help Minerva Jones—abortion?—She died. He was indicted and all of the good life which he had built crumbled about him. “They indicted me, the newspapers disgraced me,/ My wife perished of a broken heart/ And pneumonia finished me.” p. 46.

To be continued.

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