Naked to the Waist

Dark, Alice Elliott. Naked to the Waist. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.

Naked to the Waist is a compilation of six short stories with the title story being the last. While each story varies from the next there are a few underlying themes common to them all. All include women who are in relationships not easily defined. The relationships that surround them are slightly domineering.

“Interior Studio” – Two artists struggling to make ends meet; told from the point of view of the painter wife with a dominant writer husband.

“The Good Listener” – a writing teacher gets caught in a love triangle that turns into a love square.

“Plans for Plants” – a couple is moving apart. They don’t know each other anymore.

“The Comfortable Apartment” – an abused wife has the opportunity to leave her husband thanks to her sister…but does she?

“Buddy” – for me, this one was the most disturbing. A man takes his girlfriend’s puppy while she is in France for a funeral. He never wanted her to get a dog, and that’s all I’ll say about that one.

“Naked to the Waist” – Lucy is torn between wanting her best friend, a homosexual, to want her and wanting to move on with her life.

Telling lines, “She threw herself into love as though she were diving under water in at attempt to make herself disappear from the surface of the planet” (p 20), “She was coiled coolly around his mind” (p 92), It shocked him to see her alone, and he realized it was the first time he had observed her out of the range of his influence” (p 162″, and “This was my cue to placate him with one of our private games, and I did” (p 131).

As an aside, adultery is a common theme in Dark’s stories. I found it striking that when two different characters in two different stories want to know how their partners are getting away with the affair they ask the same questions, “how are you managing this?”

Reason read: November is National Writing Month and I’m honoring the short story this month.

Author fact: Dark also wrote In the Gloaming and Think of England both of which are on my list.

Book trivia: Naked to the Waist is made up of six short stories and oddly enough was not available in my area. I had to request it from Bangor, Maine.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “A…Is For Alice” (p 1).

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