GHOSTS by Eva Figes


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More Figes (Waking, 1981; Light, 1983; The Seven Ages, 1986; Nelly's Version, p. 997) in the minimalist-lyric-prose-poem mode; this time interior monologues of a woman facing old age. Weakest is the first section here, where the unnamed thinker-narrator goes on a commonplace shopping trip and laments her missing children. That the reader at first thinks the children are dead (""Oh, my lost ones"") is testament to the doggedly intense overreaching of the prose (the children are simply grown up), with its unrelenting repetitions (rain, grayness, the sound of car tires passing by on pavement) and its attempts to convey a hollowness of feeling through a poetry that's often merely self-consciously groping (""Yes. But no. Coming up from where, to here, what is this dark space? I feel no one, nothing beside me""). Far more successful is the second section, where the narrator returns to the unlived-in but still furnished house of her parents (one of whom is dead, the other in a home) and of her own long-ago childhood. Beauty of detail has more to bite on here, and the deep and hopeless melancholy of the passage of time (""The texture of what is lost"") is portrayed at moments with a telling grace and a considerably less numbing repetitiveness. As may be intended, the third section (a visit to the seacoast house of a dying friend) is filled with a storm- and wind-swept ominousness, but, again, the effect is often more thesis-driven and self-conscious than revelatory. The final section, too (the grown children come to visit for a discussion of what their mother will leave to each), has its poetic longeurs but sometimes leaps to life at touchingly revealing moments--in looking at old family photos, or in seeing the image of the dead father (""the ghosts in the living"") in the way the son sits in a chair. Meditations on aging whose intensities can touch deep feeling when they're just right, but much of the time Figes' ear needs tuning in a short book that might benefit, this time, from being even shorter.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1988
Publisher: Pantheon