On one of my ways home, I pass a restaurant named Mr. Barbecue and Miss Fried Chicken. Just the name alone will have me stop one day to say hello, perhaps to have a bite to eat.
I think of beach houses with names. If I were to name my house, I might choose “For I Have Always Fancied the Sea.” The name comes from a line of one of my favorite movies.
TRISK is my new mower. It does not use gasoline. It does not use electricity. It uses me. It will take a while to become used to it. When I have a long strip to mow, TRISK sings, TriskTriskTriskTriskTriskTriskTriskTriskTriskTriskTriskTriskTriskTriskTrisk. But usually it sings TriskTriskTrisk and then I have to turn it, and then it sings TriskTrisk, and then TriskTriskTrisk. Its phrasing us fun. It halt on obstacles, like cut tree trunks, and it jams on small limbs and twigs in the grass. But the job gets done with good music. I will have to get a weed eater, a battery-operated one, and then there will be two yard songs to hear and enjoy.
Notes on Reading. Drama. William Inge, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. (1957)
The setting is a town in Oklahoma, near Oklahoma City, in the early 1920’s. There is trouble in the Flood household. After an altercation, one of many, Rubin, the husband, hits Cora, the wife. She tells him to go and never return. The ten-year-old son is bullied by his classmates and pampered by Cora. The teen-aged daughter is shy, introverted, and tries to get out of going to a party that her mother is insisting she attend.
Through understanding the marriage of her sister, who is married to a depressed, unemotional husband, through the tragedy of the suicide the daughter’s date following the party, and through the return of the husband, who apologizes and explains his loss of work and his fear about changing careers, there is at least a temporary reconciliation of the tensions and a potential for understanding and healing. The play ends with hope.
Characters are well-drawn and developed. The realistic setting is convincing. Midwestern small-mindedness is revealed, especially with anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic comments of the characters.
Quotation from Reading.
“We know to guard against nostalgia. It’s a seducer. It tells romantic lies. It breeds reactionary sentiments by glorifying and simplifying what was and devaluing what is.”
(Walter Kirn, “The Improbability Party,” essay in Harper’s, June, 2016.