Friday, May 3, 2013

Waiting Room Dramas

This week I started Louise Erdrich's novel, The Round House.  Though I am only in the fourth chapter, I was struck by how reminiscent one of the book's opening scenes is to the doctor's waiting room in "Revelation."  Though in Erdrich's novel the scene is not as pivotal as it is in Flannery's story, there is a character in it who is every bit as judgmental and bigoted as Ruby Turpin.  To set the stage, 13-year-old Joe, whose mother has just been rushed to the hospital after being raped, is ushered into a hospital waiting room.  In there he sees a skinny pregnant woman and an older woman who is knitting the thumb of a mitten.  The pregnant woman looks up from her People magazine with Cher on the cover and speaks to Joe. 

"Don't you Indians have your own hospital over there?  Aren't you building a new one?
The emergency room's under construction, I told her.
Still, she said.
Still what?  I made my voice grating and sarcastic."
The skinny pregnant woman resumes her reading.  Before long she looks up and speaks to the knitting lady.
"Looked like that poor woman had a miscarriage or maybe - her voice went sly - a rape.
The woman's lip lifted up off her rabbit teeth as she looked at me.  Her ratty yellow hair quivered.  I looked right back, into her lashless hazel eyes.  Then I did something odd by instinct.  I went over and took the magazine out of her hands.  Still staring at her, I tore off the cover and dropped the rest of the magazine.  I ripped again.  Cher's identical eyebrows parted.  The lady who was knitting pursed her lips, counting stitches.  I gave the cover back and the woman accepted the pieces." (The Round House - pp. 8-9)

Though Joe's actions are not as violent or out of control as Mary Grace's, there are connections to the O'Connor story - intended or not.  Louise Erdrich is one of our most gifted writers and, while she has other aims in her fiction than O'Connor, I just wonder if maybe this isn't a little homage to Flannery that she tucked into the narrative.
- Mark

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