TIME TOGETHER by Marian Seldes


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In actress/autobiographer Seldes' first novel--a graceful but rather airless affair--two sisters from an upper caste New York family construct willowy, intricate accommodations to love, to the imperatives of self, and to a family legacy of drift and loss. In 1960 imperious Ermina (""Nana"") Ives summons her children to her Riverside Drive apartment for her 75th birthday: there's divorced Leonora; serene interior decorator Martha; alcoholic Dwight; plus Leonora's daughter, sweet, slow (could she be retarded?) Nell; and a family friend, journalist Arnold LeVine (Nana pronounces it ""Leveen""). The siblings then drop back in time to trace their various evolvements from a childhood at the Ives' Adirondacks ""Camp,"" a time shadowed by the drowningaccident death of their brother Harry--which robs mother Ermina of a beloved audience, a raison d'etre. Both Ermina and lawyer-husband Lem cast around for meaning in life--Lem quietly waits, Ermina seeks the elusive self in others' reactions--while sisters Leonora and Martha probe and polish perceptions in the same search. Leonora falls in love with Stephen Tannenbaum, who's crippled in spirit by a ""deprived"" childhood, never free of rage at his mother's early death, and ever haunted by a girlfriend's accusatory suicide note; deploring her own lack of direction, wanting a ""bigger life,"" Leonora loves him absolutely--but marriage, even after the birth of Nell, becomes another drift with no ""color,"" and it ends when Stephen begins to beat Nell. Martha, meanwhile, pursues a career of ""matching splendid things with splendid people,"" learns the saving strength of making choices, and has an enviable outward serenity; yet she will be devastated by the death of lover Larry Parrish, whom she has ""shared"" with Larry's nice wife an ocean away. And then, back in 1960, the family attention centers on the possibilities of Nell, ""both perfect and marred. Everything and nothing."" But Nell's smothering cocoon will be rent when she marries vital and liberating Arnold; and, after Nana's death, the sisters close ranks for new perspectives. With the interplay of sensibilities and much silky matinee dialogue--a chamber play that's technically coherent but fragile as a castle of jackstraws.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1981
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin