Before I can write about this story, I need to talk about Stephen Carter’s “Winter Light” (in What of the Night?) because as I read “The Week-end” I kept thinking This could have been May Swenson.
Carter’s Aunt May is one of the Twentieth Century’s great poets and she was an expat Utah Mormon living in the wilds of New York, leaving behind family and faith for poetry and pretty girls. “Winter Light” discusses May’s career from the point-of-view of her family. Over the course of the essay, Carter becomes more sympathetic to her plight, but the family in general views her as a lost soul, eternally trapped in a waiting place, separated from the family she loved.
What’s lacking from “Winter Light” (and Carter knows it) is May’s own perspective.
And as I read Marshall’s “The Week-end”, I kept wondering if this is what May would have become had she never left Logan.Marshall I know primarily as the author of (not, as it ends up, a novel, but a short story collection), one of those books everyone in Mormon letters eventually hears of but few of us ever read. (Someone should bring out an ebook edition. Mr Marshall, if you’re reading this, I’m interested.) “The Week-end” is part of that seminal collection.
The story is split into two point of views. The first is a third-person look inside Thalia’s head. The second is first-person—a female relation of Thalia’s (also in her mid-forties) who sees Thalia’s macro actions and applies an interpretation similar to those Carter’s family assigned to his Aunt May. In this case, that the long inactive Thalia has, out of grief from her mother’s death, abandoned her small rural Utah home for a hedonistic fling along the California coast.
[Skippable aside: yes, that makes four of four stories so far to prominently feature rural Utah. Something I said in reviewing story one I am utterly bored of. It’s still true in theory but, dang it, these are good stories.]
What her trying-not-to-judge relation does not understand is that Thalia, who has spent her adult life caring for her mother, has the longing soul of an artist. She want to paint! To write! Especially to write. Poems, in fact. Perhaps even a novel? Oh, “to open a magazine one day and find her name, in type not too large and maybe not so dark, in some small corner of the page”
She has had her week-end.
And “she’ll always have that to remember. Lord forgive her.“
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