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SPOILER ALERT!

“You could ruin the heavenly city itself"

Taking Care - Joy Williams

<u>Taking Care</u> is a short story collection of different sorts of love. The all-consuming love that you have no sense of self, the loss of love, the devotion, love towards the four-legged friends, just love.

<u>The Lover</u> and <u>The Excursion</u> are different stories about love but alike in the complete absorption in <i>love</i>. <u>The Excursion</u> weaves Jenny’s life between that of a lover and a five year old child. Jenny is not like the other children. From the perspective of her teacher, she tells lies to give structure. The strange thing about Jenny is her past and her present are happening at the same time. It was almost depressing, in a way, to read about Jenny having no time for innocence or learn about herself. She’s always dreaming about being kissed or made love to her lover. The lover with the stern face, who holds her throat with his hands as he kisses her.  The lover was described laughing only once when she was receiving unwanted attention from another man.  Jenny’s parents allow her to do whatever she wants as long as it doesn’t bother anyone else. They worry that she doesn’t play with anyone. Jenny knows she originated with him, his sexuality is her source of life. Jenny writes on her hotel stationary in Mexico <i>”The claims of love and self-preservation are opposed.”</i> Jenny realises <i>”What does time matter to the inevitability of relations? It is inevitability that matters to lives, not love. For had she not always remembered him? And seen him rising from a kiss? Always.”</i> I let go of the troubling aspect of her loving him since childhood and compared this to Cortazar’s “62: A Model Kity” which I’d read just before this collection of stories.  That time is always existing side-by-side. It wasn’t about a girl who loved a man since she was a child, but one who’d always existed to love. The five year old aspect was to showcase that side of a person who never existed as their own person. Jenny never played games or had friends. Jenny was always in love.

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Not the love of the Pastor from <u>Taking Care</u> whom we’re told has been in love all his life. His love is, from my perspective, the best kind to reciprocate.  He may be suffering from the illness of his wife but he loves his daughter and grandchild. The way Williams describes this passage <i>”In the hospital, his wife waits to be translated, no longer a woman, the woman he loves, but a situation.”</i> Jones recalls a tale about the house he shares with his wife. It used to be a doctor’s office, but the doctor had been falsely accused of fathering a child with a teenager. He kept the child, despite it not being his without any fight. He returned the child with no fight. Jones realizes he has changed, will no longer surrender to his wife’s illness. This story was so deeply unselfish and all-encompassing love.

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In <u>The Lover</u>, the girl is waiting for her lover during his visits. She has a small child she spends the time waiting with or she listens to the radio station <i>Action Line</i>. I imagine her fascination with the show is similar to my interest in the Straight Dope columns. The Answer Man seemingly knows everything. The Girl wants to be in love more than anything. I have a feeling that her want of love might chase love away.  The girl is like Jenny in [u]The Excursion</u> but not so much in that she does have a sense of self, even if she doesn’t remember much of her ex-husband.  <i>”It is so difficult! Love is concentration, she feels, but she can remember nothing.”</i> There must be some reason her ex-husband said to her during their childs delivery <I>”Now you are going to have to learn how to love something, you wicked woman.” </i> My take is the girl clearly loves her child, but the idea of love she has isn’t that of a mother’s love but the ideal of a couple of lovers. She doesn’t know what she really wants so she hasn’t found love. Love is caught up with the want of love.

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<u>Winter Chemistry</u> and <u>Train</u> are stories about friendships.  Poor Dan, the child in <u>The Train</u> is spending the summer with her friend Jane for the summer. Dan’s mother remarried and they needed her out of the way.  Jane is one of those awful bullies people only end up as friends due to childhood circumstances, when they don’t know any better, or are stuck with them because they never learn how to get rid of them.  Jane is clever and she knows it. My favourite part is Jane’s fighting parents. Her mother is constantly shrieking and yelling at poor Mr. Muirhead. Mr. Muirhead spends  his time on the train talking to various young men because his wife won’t allow him to speak to young women.  He absolutely killed me. He eats a note [we can presume it was nasty] but he eats it. At the end of the story, he asks Dan “What do you think was on that note Mrs. Muirhead had you give me? Do you think there’s something I’ve missed.” Their marriage is the sort where two people who prefer terror and drama to love. <p>

<u>Winter Chemistry</u> is about two friends Judy and Julep who are obsessed with their handsome teacher and take to spying on them. Judy is a bully, like Jane, but the sort who may grow out of it. The origins of their friendship reminded me of that urban myth about Phil Collins. Word on the street, he watched someone watch another guy drown and didn’t do anything about it. Thus a rock classic <i>In The Air Tonight</i> was born. The problem, besides spying on the teacher, is that two girls are spying outside in the dead of winter. This is a story about obsession, written very disturbing with violence and undertones of sexual assault. Was Julep raped the teacher or was this her fevered reaction of becoming sick from the cold? Judy had cried <i> “The way you’re sitting there and the way you’re looking, you look for all the world as though you’d just gotten raped.”  Julep’s eyes fell open, blurred and out of focus for several seconds as though they’d been somewhere other than her head for the last few years. “You could ruin the heavenly city itself,” she finally said.</i> I was uncertain whether the rape happened until the end. These two remind me of the girls from <i>Heavenly Creatures</i> who got caught up in their own shared mania.  The teacher comes out and assaults Judy, rather frightening in the depiction, until Julep smashes his head in. This was quite a story, twisted, violent far away from a love story, but about a school girl crush gone wrong.

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<u>Preparation for a Collie, Shepard, </u> and <u>Breakfast</u> are stories that feature the truest love of all: our four legged friends, dogs. Except that it wasn’t so much love for <u>Preparation for a Collie</u> at all. This one was an anti-love story. I felt sad for both the collie and for David, the couple’s son. Jane is waiting for her real life to begin, thus she never settles in to the life she actually has. She isn’t cruel but she doesn’t love her son David. Jackson has put an advert up for the collie, but he enjoys the process too much to actually give the dog up. I felt this was how Jane felt towards her life. She wanted something else, but never put the effort up.  Jane finds a poem excerpt <I>”The dead must fall silent when one sits down to a meal.</i>” that she cannot recall why she put it there. She decides it was to help her diet.  Hah! I found that hilarious. The ending, where Jane just decides to kill the poor dog was not out of mercy for the dog but putting an end to her husband’s prolonging giving the dog up.

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<u>Shepard</u> was a true love story about a relationship with your dog. Williams captured that loss of losing your dog, constantly playing back happier times, with this story.  The girl’s German Shepard would leap up into her arms whenever she cried “Do you love me?” reminded me of whenever I’d say “Hug time!” and the family dalmation would run over and put his paws up. My sister had her own thing with him, “Look! He’s smiling!” and he’d bare his teeth that was equally special. Dogs are the best. I usually refuse to read a story if I know the dog dies. This story is beautiful but it made me cry and remember all of the dogs I’d loved over the years. <p>

[u]Breakfast</u> is about the ending of a marriage because the husband, Willie, feels he is too good for his wife.  Willie saved three by chance, but he’s moved on. This is ridiculous, but marriages end over less. It’s how she knows he is going to leave her before it happens that made this story so sad. Liberty has a gorgeous Alastation, Clem, who is described as “coming into the night air and settled on her head as she slept” among other tales Willie told his friend, whose in love with Liberty but a drunk. I’d read it as heart until I’d just reread the line now. I like the idea of Clem just finding Liberty. He was supportive, listening to her discussion with her mom on the phone, or coming up to the restaurant window after her husband had left her.  Dogs always seem to sense when you need them most. <p>

<u>The Farm</u> and <u> Building</u> are also about the dissolution of marriages. In the case of <u>Building</u>, Katherine is remembering her first marriage. I loved the vision of the character hiding in the tree so her husband will think she’d gone somewhere or seen someone else. When she asks her friend about doing this, her friend misunderstands and thinks this was something she’d done as a child. The things people do in break-ups are childish. This was perfect, not the nastiness of Willie, bringing up fake relationships or other personalities Liberty might have with another man in <u>Breakfast</u> but In not knowing what else to do. Her ex-husband died four months after their divorce. She realises they’d been divorced anyway. This complicates the memory of the relationship, or the grieving perhaps, because they’d divorce? But then relationships are complicated, who says who you have a right to mourn or anything else. She still writes the ex-mother in-law. This story was great, that your old life and memories are often tangled up in other relationships. You can’t forget the past or those relationships.

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<u>The Farm</u> was a tragic tale of another relationship doomed to end. Much like <u>Breakfast</u>, but Sarah is more jealous and bitter about it. She wonders if he is having an affair, they discuss splitting up, the teenager she catches him sitting on the bed with blushes at her when caught.  She drinks a lot and ends up killing someone as a result. The husband Tommy covers it-up, says he was driving, the kid was on drugs himself, no one goes to jail. She begins her own sordid affair, gets back at Tommy, but not in the conventional sense. She meets with the kids mom behind his back. 

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<u>The Wedding</u> is another anti-love story to me while <u>The Summer</u> spoke to me of love how I understand it. I did buy that these two were perfectly matched.  The two characters,  Elizabeth and Sam are dating despite that he’s already married. He’s been married three times, which tells you he is the sort to always be married while Elizabeth is uncomfortable not being married.  A lot of marriages seem to work on these principles.

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<u>Summer</u> is about the fear of losing a spouse, but because Ben had almost died of a heart attack. Constance hasn’t gotten over the fear of almost losing him. She is the sort of person who only likes her husband, and the two kids they share between them. They are spending a month with a house they share with the ever popular Steven. Steven has a different woman over each weekend. Some of the women are more obnoxious than others. This story was more about relationships and love than the unstable marriages of the other stories [excepting <u>Taking Care</u>], or the possession without personality and quirks. This was a marriage about two people, equals, not sex like <u>The Excursion</u>.  This story was easier to connect with on an emotional level one should want love to be, that relationship aspect, where two people actually share their lives. They weren’t married for the sake of being married.

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In <u>Shorelines</u> , Jace <i>thinks</i> she only lived to love him. This story had a similar feel of <u>The Lover</u> of spending time with a kid, lazy heat and waiting. “Spending time, Spinninng time” to quote <i>Buffalo 66</i>.  She definitely seems to lives for the relationship. The ending she is imagining Jace calling to her. I don’t get the sense of Jace as a person involved in the relationship so much as Ben was. Is he more like the cheating Tommy, only in the relationship during the weekends?  <p>

<u>The Yard Boy</u> seems to have all the answers until he is dumped. He was coasting on life before then. He considered himself to be a Spiritual Materialist, whatever that means.  He is completely blind-sided by the divorce as the kid seems always in the zone, caught up in himself.  The rabbits-foot fern sympathises with his plight when things are no longer easy for the boy.  He’s left a baby in the shop when a girl is going to be bathroom, but this doesn’t seem to affect the boy much. <p>

<u>Traveling to Pridesup</u> also involves a baby being left on the mailbox.  Otilla, the fourth sister whose not very bright and uneducated, a sad combination, wants to keep the child. Her sister Lavinia, who always deeply loathed Otilla and wanted to tear her down refuses to keep the kid. They drive with the intention of her leaving the kid in another town.  Liberty’s mother in <u>Breakfast</u> confesses to doing something similar to her first daughter. These stories make me think of how some people don’t love the kids of their first marriages. I’m only assuming the reason for the other babies, but that is precisely why Liberty’s mom gave her kid up. I suppose it could be worse. I was traumautised as a child by the TV movie starring Farrah Fawcett as Dianne Downs. Lavinia is the most hateful character in this collection.  She isn’t capable of loving anyone. <p>

<u>Woods</u> might be the most haunting story of the collection, after <u>Winter Chemistry</u> but less violent and more that crazy paranoia and horror we bring to ourselves. Lola is constantly afraid of everything did she set herself up for that end? She never leaves their trailer in the woods. Everything is a horror to her. I’d be scared if two guys walked into my home like that, but for someone like Lola spent her life being afraid? It seemed she was sort of home at the end, justified for once, in her fear.