Ladder of Years: Excerpts

I have lots of other things to post but they require focused thought, synthesis, analysis, and posting excerpts from Anne Tyler’s lovely novel, Ladder of Years (1995), doesn’t.

“This wasn’t the whole truth, but as soon as she said it she started to believe it, and so she felt a bit hurt.”

“Eleanor was the kind of guest who felt it her duty to point out alarming flaws in the household. How long had their toilet been making that noise? Did they know they had a tree limb about to come down? Delia always countered by pretending that she was a guest herself.”

“‘Watch this, Mom.’ ‘No, watch this!’ They used to think she was so important in their lives.”

“‘Meanwhile, remember Great-Uncle Roscoe’s favorite motto.’

“‘What was that?’

“‘”Never do anything you can’t undo.”‘ …

“Climbing the stairs, she thought. But if you never do anything you can’t undo — she set a hand on the splintery railing — you’d end up doing nothing at all, she thought.”

“She had always been such a false child, so eager to conform to the grown-ups’ views of her.”

“Didn’t it often happen, she thought, that aged parents die exactly at the moment when other people (your husband, your adolescent children) have stopped being thrilled to see you coming? But a parent is always thrilled, always dwells so lovingly on your face as you are speaking.”

“… she settled finally for I’m here because I just like the thought of beginning again from scratch.’ She signed it, Love, Delia, and mailed it the following morning on her way to work. And after all, wasn’t that the true reason? Truer than she had realized when she wrote it, in fact. Her leaving had very little to do with any specific person.”

“She sat against the headboard, jostling the cat, and switched on the clock radio. They were playing jazz, at this hour. Lots of lonesome clarinets and plinkety-plonk pianos, and after every piece the announcer stated the place it was recorded and the date. A New York bar on an August night in 1955. A hotel in Chicago, New Year’s Eve, 1949. Delia wondered how humans could bear to live in a world where the passage of time held such power.”

“‘When my first wife was dying, … I used to sit by her bed and I thought, This is her true face. It was all hollowed and sharpened. In her youth she’d been very pretty, but now I saw that her younger face had been just a kind of rough draft. Old age was the completed form, the final, finished version she’d been aiming at from the start. The real thing at last! I thought, and I can’t tell you how that notion colored things for me from then on. Attractive young people I saw on the street looked so … temporary. I asked myself why they bothered dolling up. Didn’t they realize where they were headed? But nobody ever does, it seems.'”

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