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Victorine by Maude Hutchins

Victorine (1959)

by Maude Hutchins

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What an interesting read from cover to cover! A strange mix of campy, over-the-top Freudianism and profoundly creative and touching coming-of-age story - heavy on sexual themes. Strongly reminiscent of McCullers, Tennessee Williams, Faulkner, and Lawrence - but filtered through a kind of outsider artist perspective. And Hutchins is no mere copycat - she has a unique and often powerful prose style. This novel is outrageous, kinky and moving - and absolutely never boring. [And Terry Castle's intro is pure genius.:] ( )
  patronus11 | Mar 31, 2013 |
This is a weird book. One of those where simply describing it can’t really give you the essence of the whole thing. The plot elements are quite normal, almost clichéd – coming-of-age story of the title character and her brother, their dysfunctional family, a neglectful, distracted mother and a philandering father, first loves, unrequited love. But everything is a shade more purple than normal. The book I have is published by NYRB, and the appearance is extremely appropriate – orange and pink lettering on purple, a wash of pink and flowers on the cover. A good visual for the atmosphere of the book, which could be described as a very odd, rather haphazard hothouse.

The title character is an adolescent girl who is generally off in her own world while still retaining strained relationships with her family. Her brutal father, Homer, seems to have the perfect marriage with his wife Allison, but he regularly cheats on her. Costello, Victorine’s brother, deals with a number of romantic relationships – a revenge one with his father’s mistress, the one-sided crush of an aggressive girl his own age, and a secret affair with an engagingly loopy separated woman. While this all seems fairly normal (although his relationship with Victorine is a bit queasy), the book has a number of chapters where completely random stuff happens. In one, Victorine converses about sex with a hobo who may or may not be Jesus. In another, she visits a church –

This is her going to church-
“Victorine felt a lovely thrill in her very bones, a sweet taste in her mouth and along the edges of her teeth, and her thighs felt soft and warm and pneumatic to the touch of her palms, even through her gloves, as she walked to church alone”

This is her entering the church-
“The big oak doors of Trinity Church were open wide and she passed through them delating her nostrils to smell the inner smell of the sweet, exciting, private closet that she came to pray in, to feel mystical in, to be one in., She bent her head and knelt on the small round red plus stool; the sound of the organ, in deep and thunderous tone, its smaller notes tickling her senses and curling her hair, its gigantic chords lifting her up and cradling her on a tide of green ocean-like waves made her almost sick with emotion, “Enough!" her little soul pleaded and the organ ceased.”

Taking communion-
“It slid down her throat like fire and she felt the colour hit her cheeks and her insides respond to Jesus’ blood at the same time. She felt it like a hot thread exploring her intestines. The wafer had tasted merely like a piece of cotton clot and she brushed the tiny crumbs from her blue skirt absently, but the blood of Jesus Christ brought tears to her eyes.”

And so on. Good, but very odd. Read it to get the full-on oddness. ( )
1 vote DieFledermaus | Feb 14, 2011 |
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