Epistolarity: Approaches to a Form by Janet Gurkin Altman

By Janet Gurkin Altman

On epistolary fiction

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By Janet Gurkin Altman

On epistolary fiction

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The knowledge that he was done with these letters. Whatever had come over him during these last months, the spell, really seemed to be passing, really going. As he stretched out, he took a long breath, and then he lay, looking at the mesh of the screen, pulled loose by vines, and listening to the steady scratching of Mrs. Tuttle's broom. He wanted to tell her to sprinkle the floor. She was raising too much dust. In a few minutes, he would call down to her, "Damp it down, Mrs. Tuttle. " But not just yet.

398). In Bellow's novel, letters serve the same function for a post-Freudian hero that the epistle served for Ovid's Phaedra: what modesty has forbidden one to speak, passion impels one to write. Letters serve a cathartic function for Herzog that often verges upon the role of opiate or crutch: "He dreaded the depths of feeling he would eventually have to face, when he could no longer call upon his eccentricities for relief" (p. 19). But the letter, as Geraldine Portnoy writes to Herzog, can also "give one a chance to consider—think matters over, and reach a more balanced view" (p.

Having no answer 1 wrote again. But judge my astonishment, my distraction, when last night the messenger, returning posthaste, brought me word that she had not been heard of since Friday morning! And that a letter lay for her at her lodgings which came by the post; and must be mine! Lord, have mercy upon me! What shall I do! " (18 July). The unopened 26 EPISTOLARITY letter, the intercepted letter, the forged letter, the deceitful letter, letters that arrive too late (relatives' messages of forgiveness posted the day of Clarissa's death), letters to parents written while still in their house: all of these compose the novel of a heroine who, if she writes at all, is using the only form of communication left open to her.

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