19 February 2014

on rereading Gloria, part four (and final)

I finished Gloria two weekends ago. When I was about fifty pages from the end and I kept trying to put it aside, not wanting leave Miss Gloria Cotter and 1957 just yet, but I couldn't. There is a momentum that builds that begs, no demands, the reader to read just one more page, until BAM you're at the end. And oh, what an end it is.

And then I spent the rest of the weekend googling characters and things from the novel, as if these were real people. Like Gloria's BFF Susie. I found this delightful video of a head majorette in 1950. Susie would have been a little younger than this woman, and I think she'd have been even better.

Fun, no?

I want to write about the ending and the book as a whole on last time, but I also don't want to spoil anything for those of you who haven't read it yet, but plan to, so I'm doing one of those fancy "after the jump" things. Trust me, you don't want to be spoiled, so instead of reading on, start on your copy of Gloria now.

Click here to continue (but only if you've read the novel!).

I was surprised at how much of the novel I had forgotten. I know I've already said this, but it really baffles me as I considered Gloria to be one of my favourite books. I thought I would have remembered more of the plot points than I had, but what I had remembered was the simple joy of reading the book, of being in the world and mind of Gloria. But isn't that wonderful? Remembering, and then reliving, the joy of reading a book?

Plot points I remembered:
-Gloria swam a lot.
-Gloria did archery. (In my memory, she did this throughout the novel, not just at the beginning and end.)
-Gloria went to college and was going to go to Columbia for graduate school.
-She read and wrote about The Faery Queen a lot. (I had forgotten about Wyatt, which was just as important as Spenser.)
-Gloria visited Susie in winter. (I had completely forgotten everything that happened during this visit.)
-Gloria had a huge showdown with Bill Dougherty. (I had also forgotten what this looked like and the lead up to it all. Their final scene together was brutal and I can't believe that I forgot basically all of it. I had remembered how she stopped the assault, but not the details of it.)

There were more things I had forgotten that were very important to the book: Susie's cousin, Susie getting married, Gloria spending the night at Professor Bolton's, Gloria's grandmother's death. All this forgetting and yet I still felt like I remembered Gloria, the person, just like a real life friend who I hadn't seen for a long time and whose life details I may have forgotten.

I've never longed for a sequel like I long for one for Gloria. It's been almost two weeks since I've finished, and just like the first time I read it, I can't stop thinking about kind of life Gloria ended up having. She was born the same year as my father-in-law, a year older than my own father. If she had lived, and I do believe she would have very healthfully, she'd be in her late 70s now (and when I first read it, she'd have been in her early 60s!).

I want to know what happened at Columbia! I want to know about her affairs, her clothes, her family. Did she end up getting her PhD? Where did she end up teaching? Did she get married? Have children? What was her role in the women's movement? How did her friendship with Professor Bolton evolve? What happened to Susie? And, to this poet, I need to know what happened to the fledgling poet in Gloria? We are only given a glimpse of this at the end, and oh what an ending. In the last page she discovers her desire to write and she crafts a poem. It was such a perfect way to end this novel. Maillard's last lines speak of writing, yes, but also of living, and isn't that what writing is--making sense of life?
"The floor was covered with dozens of pieces of paper scrawled with her frantic writing, and even the paper glowed with an inner life. Everything she could see or imagine was alive, and her own joy glowed as brilliantly as the living light. Oh, she thought, it's not just going to take me days or even weeks. It's going to take me the rest of my life."

(If you'd like to read all the parts on rereading Gloria, you can find them here.)

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