Read an exclusive excerpt from the book in the Rumpus

“In her famous essay on fiction and the role of the modern novel, “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown,” Virginia Woolf claims that the task of the novelist is to catch in words the old lady in the railway carriage. This book is the result of my searching contemporary fiction by women for glimpses of those elusive old ladies who, a century after Woolf’s call for them, remain nearly invisible. Like Woolf’s Mrs. Brown, an old woman may sit in the carriage. Or she may sit quietly on the bench of a London park, like the invisible women of Doris Lessing’s novel The Diary of a Good Neighbour. She may sit quietly reading on an airplane, in a meeting, in the waiting rooms of public institutions. What does she notice? What does she make of the snippets of conversation she overhears? What is the interplay of present observations and memories in her mind? Does she enjoy the sun on her skin? Does she relish her flexibility after that recent hip replacement? Is she composing a melody or a poem as she pulls the needle through her embroidery? Woolf wrote that she never managed to tell the truth about the body, and I think most readers assume she meant the sexualized body. However, increasingly I think that fiction has often focused exclusively on the sexualized body rather than the embodied person as a whole. I looked and continue to look for stories of older women in which they notice not only their desire but also their strength, the beauty they apprehend through their sight and hearing, the life-giving breath that sustains them.”

Read the full EXCERPT HERE


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