NY 80s Affairs and Poets

January 20, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

What follows is an excerpt from another of those books printed by Melville’s “Contemporary Art of the Novella Collection.” A series that I have slowly been investigating. I read Tao Lin’s Shoplifting at American Apparel a while back and enjoyed that as well. While Lucinella, by Lore Segal takes on another context, she also captures the life of a generation. Her focus is the New York writer’s of 1980–poets of differing ages and statures, the parties they have, the residencies, the affairs. There are places where the book becomes kind of surreal, Zeus and Hera appear, for instance, and about midway through the text a younger version of herself becomes an important character. Such artistic liberties make her landscape pop, as they point to her self-awareness as a manipulator/crafter of worlds, begging the question what is the center of the protagonist’s experience, what is real and where is the heart of her relationship to the world? While there are many people at parties in this book, the focus of their lives is somewhat empty. And so Segal walks an important line between loving that world, dressing it up in fantasy and metaphor, and peeling back its self-absorbed veneer. You can see more about the book by going here.

An Excerpt from LUCINELLA

by Lore Segal

And so she washed the soot off her face and hands, opened the walnut, and took out the dress that shone like the sun.


Young Lucinella takes the bus downtown to look for a new housecoat. It isn’t that there’s anything the matter with her old one, except that it’s not the kind in which to come down the stairs to breakfast.

On the rack, in the lingerie department, robes handwoven of Thai silk glow with the self-generated ruby, cerulean, amber, and natural light of the raw yarn. The outlandishness of price adds a magnificence young Lucinellacan in no way afford, so she might as well try on the red one, please. The saleslady genuinely stares. “It does something for you!” she says, and young Lucinella, too, sees herself suddenly lovely, lips parted in surprise, eyes rapt, her skin glamorously reflected pink luster. “It isn’t me,” she says. She buys the housecoat in the no-color of raw sacking.

Young Lucinella takes the elevator down to the stationary department, remembering that she needs a notebook for the brand new poem she is going to write, and goes home and puts the notebook in a fresh white folder.


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