By Frederick Buechner
A protracted Day's loss of life is a mid-twentieth-century Jamesian novel that foreshadows the various topics in Mr. Buechner's later writing—faith, belief, and the complicated relatives of friends and family. the tale follows Tristram Bone, a rotund guy of wealth and "organized relaxation" yet a failure with girls, and Elizabeth terrible, a wealthy, fascinating, and gorgeous widow and Bone's unrequited love curiosity, via a sequence of encounters with family and friends, affairs genuine and imagined, gossip, jealousy, and innuendo. We additionally meet Bone's servant Emma and his puppy monkey Simon; the novelist George Motley; the boastful and seductive educational Paul Steitler, Elizabeth's naïve son Lee, and her omniscient mom Maroo.
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She felt that her relationships, when colored by Tristram, became somehow complex, involved and, at last, difficult for her to understand or manipulate very successfully. It was bad enough to have it the case with Tristram himself, but now it was happening again with George. She deplored this and resolved to speak to him simply, as though nothing had happened at all. Nor has it, she thought. Motley, however, spoke first. "How about going down to see Lee tomorrow~" he said. At the sound of her son's name she raised her eyebrows in surprise.
In fact it would not be long, he imagined, before he had achieved_with her, as with the other attractive women whom he knew successfully, that rather specialized intimacy which is based on a tacit and A Long Day's Dying 31 mutual agreement as to the undesirable grotesqueness of a physical relationship, and since the establishment of such an intimacy held for him something of the excitement of a seduction he was anxious to bring it about without delay. For this reason, although aware of the fact that his loyalty to Tristram as an older, better friend should dissuade him • and although somewhat depressed by this realization, he decided to tell her something of what he had observed earlier in the chapel.
Whatever else had changed since then, she had not, and there was a kind of excitement for her in that realization. She did not change. This was sad, but it was also not sad. It was a curious smile she gave to the desk clerk who suggested to her that the terrace behind the inn was ideal for cocktails at this time of day and of year and agreed to tell her son, when he came, that she would join him there. The window of her room looked down upon the terrace in question, littered with round green tables each pierced by a vivid umbrella and already more than half filled with people, young for the most part, undergraduates in gray flannel and seersucker and their young ladies with hair shiny from much brushing and clad in dresses cooler than the season seemed to require.
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