Sometimes I wonder about the sweetly maudlin characters from older novels compared to the overtly disenchanted characters in more contemporary works of fiction. This excerpt from ‘The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.” seems to typify the older approach to handling broken characters who seek something beyond the everyday structure of the norm. (and btw, Robert Coover’s novel is unlike any baseball novel you’ll ever read…as if Flann O’Brien wrote a novel about America’s pastime.)
“I’ll think I’ll go to church,” Hettie announced.
“Which one do you go to??” he asked, hardly caring.
“Don’t matter. First one I come to.” She sighed, spraying crumbs.
“Absolve your sins?” he asked, feeling a little contentious, but meaning no sarcasm.
“Sins? No, I ain’t got any feelings about that,” she said. “I just want a place where I can go and mope in company without bothering nobody.” She started glumly into her coffee at the brown reflection of herself. “Let’s face it, I’m getting old and ugly, Henry.”
“Listen, Hettie,” he said. He dug into the billfold, found another twenty. “Here. Go buy a new hat or something. Flowers on it.”
“Flowers are for Spring,” she argued.
“Well, old dry leaves then. Anything. A new girdle or some fancy drawers, I don’t care. I just want to see you happy.
She smiled, patted his hand gently. “Ain’t that easy,” she said. “But thanks, Henry. That’s nice.”