We’re perfectly willing to accept that writers like Wordsworth were fully engaged with everything that was happening and to find the references in their work, even when they’re veiled or allusive. But we haven’t been willing to do it with Jane’s work. We know Jane; we know that however delicate her touch she’s essentially writing variations of the same plot, a plot that wouldn’t be out of place in any romantic comedy of the last two centuries.
We know wrong.
It’s no secret to any observant reader that Austen frequently drew on her social and political context, usually to critique it. The Bennets in “Pride and Prejudice” refer over and over to the tyranny of the “entail” on their estate — the law requiring that it be handed over to a distant male relative rather than inherited by a daughter. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that Austen meant for that novel to be understood as “a revolutionary fairy tale, a fantasy of how, with reform . . . society can be safely remodeled.” In fact, it detracts from Austen’s enormous artistry to say she did.
Mr. Keller thinks, at least for him, a change may be in order. “At some point you want to say, ‘I gave, I gave, I gave — now it’s time for us,’” he said.
Mr. Keller is 61, an age when other successful chefs of his generation have started to plot exit strategies and consider legacies.
“Everyone is kind of charting their own course on this,” said Emily Luchetti, a pastry chef and author who is about to turn 60. “When we all started out, there were no real mentors to look at and say, ‘That’s how I want to do it when I’m in my 60s or 70s.’ The only thing we had were old European chefs who could no longer cook anymore because their knees were giving out.”
Here is a thing that happens to me regularly: I am at work and a man will grab my arm. Usually they do this in a way that is meant to come across as non-threatening. They aren’t trying to scare me—they’re good guys after all. They’re just curious about me. They just want to know me. They are being polite. They are being inquisitive. They are not breaking any rules.
Usually I will be handing them their change and as I do so, as I carry out this transaction, they will notice the text I have tattooed on my forearm and they will grab my arm to read it, and just like that my body has become a part of this transaction. And perhaps what is worse—I don’t pull my arm away. I dutifully let them grab my body. I let myself be read. I resign myself to another moment of my body no longer belonging to me.
To introduce a story with a heavy pair of stone testicles takes a singular writer and — dare we say it — a ballsy one, like novelist Alison MacLeod. This particular anatomical contribution comes from the sphinx presiding over Oscar Wilde’s tomb. According to a young narrator in MacLeod’s short story collection All the Beloved Ghosts, “It’s not a pretty angel this time with soulful eyes and a slippery dress. No. It’s a big fucker with broad square wings rising from its back.” Peering underneath, he notices a vandal has hacked off the “angel’s bits,” only to discover his great-uncle, the cemetery keeper, using them as a handy paperweight on his desk.
As e.e. cummings so succinctly put it, "Unbeing dead isn't being alive." Ferris' unmoored souls struggle with living death — along with pathological insecurity and fear of abandonment. While the stories in this book don't particularly advance this talented writer's career, The Dinner Party provides a fine showcase for his work.