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Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker
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Cassandra at the Wedding (original 1962; edition 2004)

by Dorothy Baker, Deborah Eisenberg (Afterword)

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282539,987 (3.97)62
Member:libraryrobin
Title:Cassandra at the Wedding
Authors:Dorothy Baker
Other authors:Deborah Eisenberg (Afterword)
Info:NYRB Classics (2004), Edition: First Printing, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:**1/2
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Cassandra at the wedding by Dorothy Baker (1962)

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    Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion (pitjrw)
    pitjrw: California in it's prime and it's discontents
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Showing 5 of 5
Cassandra Edwards is a French literature graduate student at Berkeley, who returns to her childhood home for her twin sister’s wedding. She loves her sister Judth fiercely, and although she’s never met her fiancée, Cassandra is determined to stop the wedding from happening.

This is a very difficult novel to explain, because although short, and taking place over the course of a couple of days, there’s a lot going on. Cassandra is one of the oddest people I’ve run into in literature in a long time; although the book is told mostly in the first person from her point of view, I’ve never seen a character who is less self-aware. There are also a number of contradictions to Cassandra’s personality, which makes her an intriguing character. For example, if she loves her sister so much, then why is she hell-bent on ruining her happiness? Judging from what happens on the day of the wedding, it’s clear that Cassandra is an incredibly selfish person too, which should make it easy for the reader to dislike her; instead, I get a feeling of pathos when I read Cassandra’s side of the story. The novel is also told from the point of view of Judith, who is a far less interesting character, but she has a number of insights into Cassandra’s character that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. As I’ve said before, Cassandra is incredible unself-aware; it’s amazing how the author can tell us things about Cassandra that she isn’t aware of herself. I won’t get into details for fear of spoiling things, but there’s a major bombshell about Cassandra that’s revealed towards the end that I thought was really well done (although this book was written in the ‘60s, so it’s not explicitly said).

The family itself is also very interesting—besides Judith there’s their father, a perpetually drunk philosophy professor; the grandmother; and Judith’s fiancée, the ideal Jack Finch. Also present, but not physically, is the twins’ mother, who has died a couple of years before this novel takes place. If you’re expecting lots of plot, there isn’t much, so part of the strength of this book lies in the characters and how dysfunctional they all seem sometimes. ( )
  Kasthu | Aug 1, 2011 |
I enjoyed this very-California, mid-20th-century novel of manners, if there is such a thing. Cassandra, a doctoral student at Berkeley and an identical twin, opens the book on the way home to the family ranch Northern California for her sister Judith's wedding. Judith, a classical pianist, is about to marry a young doctor she met in New York in a small family wedding, unless Cassandra can convince her otherwise.

This is a tale of an eccentric family -- a philosophizing, early retired father who thrives on brandy; a conventional and sweet, if ineffectual, grandmother; a successful novelist and screenwriter mother, whose presence remains in the house although she has died, and the twin sisters with highly refined tastes and imaginations, as Cassandra insists:

"Take it on faith -- we're special.... Who else could have had our mother for a mother and our father for a father? Who else do you know that drives a Riley and owns a Boesendorfer, or even knows what they are. We didn't join Job's Daughters, or go steady with some clod, or live with the Alpha Kappa Thetas, because we never spoke that language or thought in those terms. How could we? We can start living where others imaginations fail."

In clumsier hands, this story could be excruciating, but Baker's touch is light, skillful and amusing. She's not writing about a dysfunctional family, but one rather defined by its quirks and possibilities, as is Cassandra herself. ( )
4 vote janeajones | Aug 18, 2010 |
Reading this book, I couldn't help but think of 'Catcher in the Rye', which I hated, and how much better this is. Now, 'Cassandra at the Wedding' is not very similar to 'Catcher in the Rye', but they share enough similarities for my mind to be stuck on the comparison.

The other comparison I made was with the documentary 'The Bridge', which captures and explores people killing themselves by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Anyway, I highly recommend this book. I can only imagine how exciting it would have been to read it in the early 60's when it was first published, and I wonder, now, if anyone has bothered to add it to the canon of LGBT fiction, where it belongs ( )
2 vote inaudible | Jan 24, 2010 |
Cassandra is a graduate student at Berkeley, unhappy and increasingly disconnected from her life. She does try and create relationships with the people around her, but her very high standards and horror of being misunderstood mean that the only person she has ever really felt at ease with is her twin sister, Judith. However, Judith moves to New York, and nine months later tells her sister that she is getting married. The book opens a few days before the wedding, as Cassandra, convinced Judith is making a terrible mistake, prepares herself to drive home for the ceremony.

This is a wonderfully written story. Cassandra narrates most of the book, and her voice is remarkable. She mostly avoids looking head-on at her problems, and yet her desperation and sometimes delusion are clear. When Judith took a turn narrating, I was a bit scared - I felt like I already understood the situation, from both sides of the story, and I didn't really want a simplified version from Judith. I needn't have worried, though: in fact, Judith's narration managed to add an extra level of complexity.

Recommended for: anyone who likes literary fiction. ( )
6 vote wandering_star | Jan 24, 2010 |
Dorothy Baker has created one of modern literature's most remarkable heroines in Cassandra Edwards -- a brilliant, infuriating and utterly captivating creature. You will hang on her every word.
2 vote circadia | Jun 1, 2006 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy Bakerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eisenberg, DeborahAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turner, LowriIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I told them I could be free by the twenty-first, and that I'd come home the twenty-second.
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It had more to do with belonging to a tradition in music and staying in it and working at in in any capacity you can fit into - playing what's being written, and what's been written, composing too if you want to and can, but mostly trying to keep it alive and separate the chaff from the grain and keep them separate. Know which is which, and care, and that's a life work.
He quit teaching because it irked him to have to meet appointments - to shave by the clock and put on a tie and arrive at a particular place at a particular time over and over. It wasn't that way in Athens. A teacher in the golden age could stay in his bath however long he happened to wish to, and when he got out, some youth would be there with a towel and dry him off, and by the time he was dry and robed, the work would have got around and the young men would have gathered to question and to be questioned and end up convinced that the unexamined life is not worth living. We were raised that way ourselves; our father was Socrates, we were the youth and we sat at his feet.
Either this or that. But. But I'd never try to have it both ways, I'd never, I swear I'd never choose to come home with a stranger and enact before our household gods the brutal double ceremony of the destruction of Athens and the founding of something that could never at its best equal it. Or come anywhere near it. Or be spoken of in the same breath. From heights you can only descend. Ask anyone. Ask me, preferably.
I hadn't thought about it as being anything peculiar, because I was going home, and one of the things about belonging somewhere is that you can go there without permission because it's where you belong. But did I? Did I belong, at such a time, where plans were being made and questions of policy being decided, matters of great moment like for example do they have sterling silver of stainless steel?
But I seldom get praised for the hard things I do, and I do some of the hardest things. Things like waking up in the morning and going to sleep at night, all all alone except when I'm with someone; and it's getting harder and harder for me to be really with anyone.
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"By the time I went back into the bedroom I had my mind made up. As I said, it wasn't really hard, because I couldn't stand what was going to happen, and I knew I couldn't, not now, keep it from happening. So go, girl. We should have been one person all along, not two..."
It is the hottest June 21st since 1912, and the longest day of the year. Casandra Edwards-tormented, intelligent, mordantly witty - leaves her doctoral thesis and her Berkeley flat to drive through the scorching heat to her family's ranch. There they are all assembled: her philosopher father smelling so sweetly of five-star Hennessey, her kind, fussy grandmother, her beloved, her identical, her inseparable (soon to be separated) twin sister Judith. For the occasion is Judith's marriage to a young Connecticut doctor; though it won't be if Cassandra can help it ...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0860682447, Paperback)

"I'm not, at heart, a jumper; it's not my sort of thing...I think I knew all the time I was sizing up the bridge that the strong possibility was I'd go home, attend my sister's wedding as invited, help hook-and-zip her into whatever she wore, take the bouquet while she received the ring, through the nose or on the finger, wherever she chose to receive it, and hold my peace when it became a question of speaking now of forever holding it." It is the hottest June on record and the longest day of the year. Cassandra Edwards -tormented, intelligent, mordantly witty - leaves her graduate studies and her Berkeley flat to drive through the scorching heat to her family's ranch. There they are all assembled: her philosopher father, smelling sweetly of five-star Hennessy; her kind, fussy grandmother; her beloved, identical twin sister Judith, who is about to be married - unless Cassandra can help it.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:21 -0400)

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NYRB Classics

3 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590171128, 1590176014, 159017612X

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