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Heyward replied simply that Monsieur Fay was writing to his wife, adding, “He tells me that he has written to her at this hour, whenever they are separated, for thirty years.”
I’ve often wondered if it takes a certain amount of selfishness to make a living as an artist. Is it selfishness or is it simply a tenacity to keep going or a passion that can’t be suffocated? I don’t know the exact answer; however, these questions seem to be behind Caroline Gordon’s short story “Emanuelle! Emanuelle!”. I read this when I picked the Ten of Clubs for Week 27 of my Deal Me In 2016 short story project. It’s included in my copy of The Best American Catholic Short Stories edited by Daniel McVeigh and Patricia Schnapp. My Deal Me In 2016 list can be found here. Deal Me In is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
In addition to these interesting questions, Gordon’s story provides another great example of the detached sidekick as a narrator. Although in the case of “Emanuelle! Emanuelle!”, Robert Heyward isn’t narrating the story in first person but we get the details from his perspective in third person. Heyward, a recently published American poet, becomes the secretary for already established French poet, Guillaume Fay.
Heyward and Fay are visiting a North African city. Fay faithfully writes to his wife in Normandy, France everyday at a specific time prompting Heyward to remember his own wife in New York. Fay makes it known that the letters he sends his wife will one day be published. As Heyward visits the Fay’s farm in France he realizes that things may not be as pleasant between the Fay’s as Heyward thought.
Without giving away the powerful ending, Fay’s art may be interfering with his marriage. This story brought to mind Willa Cather’s story “A Death in the Desert” which I posted about a few years ago here.