Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

Olive’s sharp opinions, her full breasts, her stormy moods and sudden, deep laughter unfolded within him a new level of aching eroticism, and sometimes when he was heaving in the dark of night, it was not Denise who came to mind but, oddly, her strong, young husband–the fierceness of the young man as he gave way to the animalism of possession–and there would be for Henry Kitteridge a flash of incredible frenzy as though in the act of loving his wife he was joined with all men in loving the world of women, who contained the dark, mossy secret of the earth deep within them.

This sentence does much work. Let’s talk characters. We are here in the mind of the church-going Henry Kitteridge who’s enthralled right now with the young Denise who works in his shop and also her “strong, young husband,” and here we see how the vision of each of them in part fuels Henry’s lovemaking with his wife Olive. It’s a wonderful triangulation (or quadrangulation) of desire and its endless distances and intimacies. Henry, who is in much of the book a model of stoic politeness, is suddenly made more real, more multi-dimensional.

I also love the verb at the beginning of the sentence, and the progression that follows. His wife’s excesses “unfoldedĀ within him,” then we get to the heaving, the fierceness, the animalism, the frenzy–we fly so high that we somehow reach all men, all women, and “the dark, mossy secret of the earth.” Lovely.

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