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The connections and interconnections of past and present––the realization that life is a whole continuously echoing back to the past and unfolding toward the future––were sources of the strength, renewal, and joy celebrated in H.D.'s Trilogy and, in a differing, but no less real way, in The Gift––her novelistic memoir of childhood.
In recapturing her memories of being a very little girl in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and later on a country place outside Philadelphia, H.D. "let the story tell itself or the child tell it." It is this voice or child's-eye view that lends The Gift its special charm as H.D. recreates the ordinary and extraordinary occasions of her early youth, the nightmares and delights. A road-company presentation of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Christmas Eve with its particular family ritual, a family outing, a disturbing accident––the happenings and incidents, perceptions and misconceptions with which a child's life is crowded are the substance of this most winning book. As she did for the H.D. novel HERmione, H.D.'s daughter, Perdita Schaffner, provides a fine introduction.
some of the photographs of Venice; there was a lady too, lying on the ground with a big book open and a skull (like Papa’s Indian skull on his bookcase); she was someone in the Bible, Mary-someone in a cave with long hair. We would get some small rocks from the stream that ran in the little valley several fields below the house, for the cave on the putz. Ida had found another box on the floor; she said, “You’ve forgotten a box on the floor.” Gilbert said, “No, I put it there.” Ida lifted the box
riding on a stick, like a witch rides on a broomstick. She was going to stick the little girl right through with her long pointed stick and that was what would happen in the night if you went to sleep and had a bad dream which the Simple Science (which explains things like why does a kettle boil, which we do not have to have explained) calls a nightmare. Look at its face if you dare, it is meant to drive you crazy. It is meant to drive you mad so that you fall down in a fit like someone in the
like Aunt Aggie, only Aunt Aggie is a taller lady, taller than Mama even. It seems that it is cold, though it is a hot summer night, but there is wind this side of the house because the curtains blow a little in the wind, and I can see that Mamalie is afraid they’ll brush against the candle in the saucer, even before she says, “The curtains, Aggie.” I go over and jerk the summer curtains; they are made of flowered stuff, like the curtains they pinned up for the window they cut out of an old
there and Gilbert was not there. Harold and I were alone with him and he did not seem to know us and he did not shut his eyes and his eyes went on looking and looking. I ran into the kitchen with Harold and we filled the washbasin with water and brought back a towel and Harold stood there and now the water in the basin was almost as red as the blood on his face and his beard was thick with blood and I went on washing his face with the towel and wringing out the towel in water, like Ida showed me
background; she merely dropped bits of information now and then. My father was out of the picture, so my relatives were all on my mother’s side—and on the other side of the world, the States. A few of them came over. Uncle Harold and Uncle Melvin. And my grandmother and her sister, my great-aunt Laura, whom I loved dearly. They baby-sat when Bryher and H. D. traveled. But they both returned to the States when I was still a young child. Aunt Laura outlived my grandmother by a few years. I never