A couple weeks ago I posted a link to a Sporcle game that asked how many Pulitzer Prize winning books I could name. I also posted my abysmal score (10/55). Making matters worse, when you all posted your scores, it turned out I was lowest in the class! Well, if I were to take that test again today, I'd get 11.
One of those 55 books, one of the ones I missed, was a collection of short stories by Katherine Anne Porter. So, after a little bit of searching, I found one of her stories online, "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall."
Before you rush off to read it, assuming you haven't already, be forewarned that it's about death and might be a little depressing. Recently I reread a meme that I'd done a year ago which asked me to name 8 random facts about myself. My second fact was this:
I'm 30 years old and since I've been born, I've never had anyone in my family die. Not a grandparent, an uncle, aunt, cousin, no one. Might sound like a morbid thing to throw out there, but it sits in my mind more and more. I wonder if I'll deal with it okay. It will happen someday of course and it scares me a lot. It's starting to feel like we're defeating the law of averages. And I hope this doesn't jinx us all.While I don't really believe I cursed the family, since then there have been two deaths in my family. One of my grandmothers died shortly afterwards and just two weeks ago my aunt died from leukemia. To answer the question I posed last May, I have coped fine. It hasn't helped keep death from my mind obviously, and now it's hard not to imagine my own inevitable moment and wonder how I'll cope with that.
Katherine Anne Porter's "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" puts us in the mind of someone on her own deathbed: we are thinking our final thoughts via Granny Weatherall, an eighty year old whose lived perhaps a typical life, despite having been left at the altar years ago.
Told as a stream-of-consciousness, I think I'm finally able to pinpoint what my reservations are with that style. Other stream-of-consciousness works that I've read (Faulkner jumps to mind), have been more like wild rivers, ones that jump the bank and flood the whole forest floor. Realistic a representation as they might be, I find them next to impossible to follow. Porter's, fortunately, is more stream-like. It's easier to follow and I can see how one thought leads to the next. Even when Granny begins to lose her lucidity (she imagines her pillow rising and floating beneath her), Porter still controls the story and keeps it readable.
There are a lot of cliches in "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall": the cranky old woman, the patronizing doctor, even the final death scene. But, since we all die in the end, we're all cliched. While fortunately (or unfortunately for some, I guess) not many of us have been abandoned on our wedding days, that we have had pain in our life is a given. Granny tries to convince herself that things have worked out for the best, and to make peace with her life that was. Hopefully, we'll be more successful than her.
("The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" was also a made-for-t.v. movie in 1980.)