The Bedquilt and Other Stories
The selections in THE BEDQUILT AND OTHER STORIES show Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1879- 1958) at her best, stripping away stereotypes and misconceptions to reveal the true nature of people and events from the monumental to the mundane. The essay “What My Mother Taught Me” sets the tone by analyzing how her mother’s eccentricities propelled Fisher into a writing life. In “The Bedquilt,” a spinster finally asserts her right of free choice. A professor in “The Heyday of the Blood” recalls a lesson from his feisty grandfather more useful than any taught in academia. “Gold from Argentina” ridicules the difference perceived wealth makes. “Flint and Fire” shows the impact of a family feud on outsiders’ lives (the book’s second essay outlines Fisher’s process in writing this story).
Fisher tackles broader issues as well. She skewers racial intolerance in “An American Citizen,” and provides an inspiring glimpse of young Booker T. Washington in “The Washed Window.” She conveys World War II’s horrific impact on France in “Through Pity and Terror . . .” and “The Knot-hole,” where women struggle futilely to maintain a semblance of normalcy, while men are killed in battle or taken prisoner.
Three of the stories are especially original and effective. “Memorial Day” continues the antiwar theme, as buried soldiers react to boys placing flags on their graves. “The Saint of the Old Seminary” ends ambiguously, leaving the reader to decide whether a traitorous betrayal actually occurred. “Sex Education” present three versions of one event, the innovation being that they are told by the same narrator at different points in life.
Editor Mark J. Madigan thoughtfully provides an introduction, afterword, a chronology, and a bibliography. This collection is long overdue, and should help restore Fisher to her rightful place in the literary canon.