What's for Dinner?
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James Schuyler's utterly original What's for Dinner? features a cast of characters who appear to have escaped from a Norman Rockwell painting to run amok. In tones that are variously droll, deadpan, and lyrical, Schuyler tells a story that revolves around three small-town American households. The Delehanteys are an old-fashioned Catholic family whose twin teenage boys are getting completely out of hand, no matter that their father is hardly one to spare the rod. Childless Norris and Lottie Taylor have been happily married for years, even as Lottie has been slowly drinking herself to death. Mag, a recent widow, is on the prowl for love. Retreating to an institution to dry out, Lottie finds herself caught up in a curious comedy of group therapy manners. At the same time, however, she begins an ascent from the depths of despair—illuminated with the odd grace and humor that readers of Schuyler's masterful poetry know so well—to a new understanding, that will turn her into an improbable redeemer within an unlikely world.
What's for Dinner? is among the most delightful and unusual works of American literature. Charming and dark, off-kilter but pedestrian, mercurial yet matter-of-fact, Schuyler's novel is an alluring invention that captures both the fragility and the tenacity of ordinary life.
for it: two and I’m squiffy. I wouldn’t have had one, if I had to drive. It was so good of Norris to drive way out of his way and pick me up, when my car wouldn’t start.” “Did you look at the engine?” Bryan asked Norris. “Not my job.” “Oh I’m probably just out of gas,” Mag said. “It wouldn’t be the first time. You know what a forgetter I am. Norris, if it’s all right with you, I think it’s nearly my beddy-bye time.” In the car Norris said, “Mag, was it true your car wouldn’t start?” “It was
put her in the kitchen, Mr Lazy?” Bryan said. “I was too sleepy. She didn’t wake me up that much.” “Oh dear,” Maureen said. “I know Twing doesn’t have fleas, but I don’t like the idea that she might have, and have them got into the bed clothes. The catch on the kitchen door has to be fixed.” “I’ll look at it,” Bryan said. “I hope you’ll do more than look at it.” “I can’t do much about it until I have looked at it. If you close it firmly, it catches.” “I put Twing in the kitchen myself last
wear an attractive red and white striped kind of smock,” Mrs Brice explained, “striped like spearmint candy.” “I’m not so advanced as you,” Lottie said. “At the moment all activities strike me as repulsive.” “I just don’t know,” Mrs Judson said. “I’ve never been a good mixer.” “My outside activities,” Mr Mulwin said, “are ruining my business, and the sooner I get back to it, the better.” “Wasn’t it partly anxiety about your business,” Dr Kearney asked, “that got you in here.” “Yes, it was,”
ask.” “No,” Norris said, “it isn’t.” He left the room and returned shortly with a weak scotch and water in a tall glass. No ice—he was a bit of an Anglophile. He took a sip and said, “You’re sure, Lottie, that I’m not tormenting you needlessly?” “No, you’re not tormenting me a bit. The seizure, or compulsion, or whatever it was, has passed off. It seems quite natural to see you sitting in your easy chair, having a cocktail hour drink. It was such a funny feeling, like a fit.” “Just don’t let
chair and lay down across it and the oven door, her head within the oven, reached up and turned on the gas. After a minute she pulled her head out, turned off the gas and went to the sink and began to vomit. Tears ran down her face as she turned on the faucet and washed her sickness away. She started to go upstairs, turned back and replaced the racks in the oven, put the kitchen chair in its usual place and opened the window a crack. She stood in her kitchen and said aloud, “I won’t try that