Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Under Magnolia

Frances Mayes was the keynote speaker last weekend and though I'd cherished hopes of of getting to tell her how much I love her books on Tuscany (Under the Tuscan Sun on audiobook has enlivened many an ironing session,) it was not to be. She was not staying at our bed and breakfast and though she was was at the Saturday night dinner for the authors, she was at a different table.

I have long felt a kinship with Mayes, just from reading the books about Tuscany -- we are almost the same age; we both grew up in the South with somewhat volatile family situations; we both moved to someplace where we were 'strangers in a strange land.'   We both learned to love and appreciate our new neighbors. (She got the better deal, as far as local food goes, alas...)

Mayes has a new book out, a memoir about her youth. I purchased it and began reading it right away. As I read I kept nodding my  head -- yes, I remember the frozen fruit salad, the linen dresses, reading The Girl of the Limberlost, listening to angry voices somewhere else in the house at night, Capezios and crin0lines, green beans cooked with salt pork till they fall apart,  wedding presents spread out on tables all over the house for my mother's friends to come look at,  a little too much alcohol and not quite enough money . . .

Mayes  spent two years at Randoph- Macon where the dorm curfews and  rules were even stricter than those I experienced during my one year at Emory. Then it got really weird. 

She transferred to University of Florida.  As did I.  I'm pretty sure that we were there at the same time. She mentions a class in Chaucer where she memorizes the opening to the Canterbury Tales. I took that class. (Whan that Aprille with its showeres sote/ The droughte of Marche hath perced to the roote . . .)  Were we in the same class?

She got a job at Donigan's -- the popular clothing store near campus and not far from the upstairs-over-the-real estate-office where I lived.  I spent far too much of my allowance there on madras blouses and Villager shirtwaists -- did we bump elbows, do you suppose?

Obviously this book resonated with me in a very big way. But even without all these points of convergence, I'd have loved it for Mayes's crystalline prose, her evocative descriptions, and her deep appreciation for the mysteries of families, love, and life.

Oh, Frances -- how I wish we'd been trapped in an elevator long enough for a good session of did you know and do you remember.

Probably just as well it didn't happen.
                                       There's more about Frances Mayes and her books HERE


Ms. A said...

Gives you that "it's a small world" feeling! How cool is that!

Barbara R. said...

How great to have such a connection with another good author! I'll definitely want to read her Magnolia book. Amazing how you just happened to have such lovely Magnolia blossom photos!

Frances said...

Vicki, I'm sorry that you didn't have an opportunity to do any mingling with Frances Mayes. It actually seems odd that she would have not interacted more with other writers.

It is interesting to think about how many others have these shared youthful memories. Frozen fruit salad, campus rules, madras, Capezios, or even Pappagallo shoes. And more.

Have you read about the sudden decision to close Sweet Briar College? I think that there might be a plot for a mystery novel there.


Carol Crump Bryner said...

So sorry you weren't able to connect with Frances Mayes. But it sounds like you have connections through your writing - I loved reading about those overlaps of time and place and events.

I was once in an elevator with Terry Tempest Williams, and she was so gracious and kind. It does add to the admiration you feel for a writer when you can speak to them on a personal level and they look you in the eye and listen as well as talk.

NCmountainwoman said...

All those things are familiar to me as well. I have never read nor seen the movie Tuscan Sun. But it's on sale for Kindle for $1.99. Your post and the sale made me think I should order it and read it. I never cast aside a good omen.

katy gilmore said...

Loved this! And will be fun to read a new Frances Mayes! And, just for the record, in college no where near the south, I had to memorize those lines also! It must be an English major thing, like a secret handshake with extra ees and vowels! xo

Vicki Lane said...

Frances, I'd heard about Sweet Briar -- yes, it would make a good story. I hope someone seizes the opportunity.

Yes, I downloaded UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN too -- such a bargain! I have the audio version read by Mayes but it's on cassettes and they wear out.

Thérèse said...

You should let know Frances Mayes through her blog Vicky, it would be fun.

Thérèse said...

Wonderful magnolias pictures!