Cora Fry's Pillow Book

Rosellen Brown, Author
Rosellen Brown, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $15 (179p) ISBN 978-0-374-14402-9
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-374-52443-2
Open Ebook - 179 pages - 978-1-4668-8413-7
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This edition contains Cora Fry, first published in 1977, and a new sequel, Cora Fry's Pillow Book. In the original poem, a dramatic monologue narrated by Cora, a young mother and forbearing wife living in rural New Hampshire, Brown's language is as lean and spare as a piece of Shaker furniture. Cora tells the story of her unhappy marriage and the grind of her daily life with a flinty Yankee terseness and stoicism; there is no place in her world for self-pity or self-indulgence. Brown's (Civil Wars) depiction of the emotionally and materially pinched lives of working-class New Englanders is reminiscent of Wharton's Ethan Frome: she portrays the drama of the hard-bitten landscape and its inhabitants with a withering accuracy. Unfortunately, the poetry of the later Cora has acquired a kind of middle-aged spread; the chiseled lines have been replaced by an expansive language that tells more than it shows. The watchful, rebellious, tough Cora has aged into a gentler, more compliant materfamilias still married to the repressed ``Fry'' and devoted to her grown children and hapless neighbors. Fans of Brown's poem will no doubt be gratified by this newsy update of life in Oxford, New Hampshire, even though it lacks the sharp-edged poetry that made the original memorable. (Oct.)
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