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10th Grade202432 Stories4th of July99 DaysA Change in AltitudeA Demon in My ViewA Dream of WolvesA Finely Tuned Apathy MachineA Heart of StoneA Life Lived RidiculouslyA Multitude of SinsA Parting GiftA Question of BloodA Quiet PlaceA Red Heart of MemoriesA River SutraA Short History of Tractors in UkrainianA Slight Trick of the MindA Stir of BonesA Thousand Miles from NowhereA Voyage Long and StrangeA Wedding in December About a BoyAbraham LincolnAcross the River and Into the TreesActs of GodAfrican PsychoAfter DarkAfter YouAfter You'd GoneAfterwardsAgenda for MurderAliens in the Prime of Their LivesAll Alone in the UniverseAll Families Are PsychoticAll in the MindAll the Way HomeAltered LandAlternatives to SexAmanda's WeddingAmelia RulesAmericaAmerica AmericaAmnesiaAmong the DepartedAn Object of BeautyAngelsAngry Youth Comix #2AnimosityAnne SextonAre You Experienced?Aristotle and Poetic JusticeAristotle DetectiveArlington ParkArtemis FowlAs Hot as It Was You Ought to Thank MeAsking For MurderAtonementAway Laughing on a Fast CamelBabylon and Other StoriesBad BoyBad SeedBag Of BonesBalancing ActsBarbara the Slut and Other PeopleBeach RoadBeat the ReaperBeautiful GirlsBed of RosesBefore I Go to SleepBefore the FrostBeg the QuestionBeginner's GreekBellyBeneath the SkinBenedictionBest New American VoicesBig BrotherBilly and GirlBiteBlack & WhiteBlack HelicoptersBlack Market TruthBlameBlanketsBleed for MeBlind SightBlonde FaithBlood, Salt, WaterBlueprints for Building Better GirlsBody SurfingBoneMan's DaughtersBoneyardBoneyardBoomsdayBorder CrossingBoth Ways Is the Only Way I Want ItBoysBracketBrain TrustBrava, ValentineBreaking Out of BedlamBreathing UnderwaterBrick LaneBridge of SighsBridget JonesBridget Jones's DiaryBrief Interviews with Hideous MenBruisesBrŁselBullyBurn, Bitchy, BurnButterflyBy BloodBy The Sea ShoreCalled to KillCanadaCanvasCaricatureCase HistoriesCellCemetery DanceChange of HeartChangesChasing the DimeChild 44Cinema PanopticumCinnamon KissCircle NineCity of the LostClay's WayClose toYouClose Your EyesCloud 9 AffairCoincidenceCold CaseCold HitCold in HandCollected StoriesCome Up and See Me SometimeComfort and JoyCompulsionConfessions of a ShopaholicConfessions of an Ex-GirlfriendConsider LoveCouch FictionCrispinCross CountryCruddyCrumpleCutCypherDaddy's GirlsDakotaDamageDancing After HoursDanger in High PlacesDanger! Cross CurrentsDante's PoisonDante's WoodDarkest FearDating Without NovocaineDead BoysDead Canaries Don't SingDead EndDead EvenDeadly AdviceDeadly ButterflyDeadly GambleDeaf SentenceDear American AirlinesDear Zoe,Death of a Department ChairDeath of an AddictDeath with InterruptionsDeath Without TenureDeceitDecemberDeceptionDefending JacobDeliverance From EvilDemonologyDepraved HeartDisobedienceDisturbing GroundDivine JusticeDivisaderoDixie RoadDr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeDriftlessDuplicityEcstasyEmerald City BluesEmpire FallsEmpress of the WorldEnd over EndEven DeadlierEven Dogs in the WildEvenings at FiveEvery Visible ThingEye ContactFaking ItFalling ManFamily HistoryFascinationFat Angie Fear of the DarkFeeling Sorry for CeliaFellsideFeminist Philosophy And Science FictionFever 1793Field of BloodFinal JeopardyFlashpointFlorid StatesForgive the MoonFortunate SonFortune's RocksFour Blind MiceFour CornersFred the ClownFrom Girls to GrrlzGallatin CanyonGaudi AfternoonGenerosityGeorgia Under WaterGhost at the WindowGiftedGiganticGirl in TranslationGirl Walking BackwardsGirls Closed InGirls Like UsGod HeadGod Is DeadGod Is Not OneGods and BeastsGoldengroveGone GirlGood GriefGrace, Tamar and Laszlo the BeautifulGuises of DesireHalf In Love With DeathHappiness Sold SeparatelyHappy FamilyHappy Mutant Baby PillsHappy Now?HarleyHarry Potter and the Sorcererís StoneHeartbeatHeftHell's IslandHey, Wait...High HeatHolidays On IceHope in a JarHot MilkHotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel WorldHotels of North AmericaHouse of JavaHow a Gunman Says GoodbyeHow People ChangeHow to Be GoodHow to Set a Fire and WhyHug MeI Can See YouI Don't Know How She Does ItI'd Know You AnywhereIf I Fall, If I DieIf You StayImagine Me GoneImposter for HireIn ZanesvilleInfinite JestIngloriousInnocentInnocent WorldInnocentsInspired SleepInvisibleIronshoreIs This What Other Women Feel Too?It Takes OneIt's Love We Don't UnderstandIt's Not Me, It's YouJacob Have I LovedJimmy CorriganJohn Dies at the 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CrossMiddlesexMischlingMisfortuneMissing PresumedMoby DickMomma and the Meaning of LifeMonsterMonths and SeasonsMr. CommitmentMrs. DallowayMunich AirportMurder BookMurder in ByzantiumMurder in the InnMusic for TorchingMy AbandonmentMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy Life with CorpsesMy Name Is RedMy Sister's KeeperMystery Time StoriesNasty, Short and BrutalNecessary NoiseNelson Mandela's Favorite African FolktalesNemesisNeuroticaNever Fade AwayNever Let Me GoNew Australian StoriesNight FilmNina: AdolescenceNone of the AboveNorth of BeautifulNothing RightNovel About My WifeObjects of My AffectionObservatory MansionsOdd HoursOddsOld SchoolOn Chesil BeachOn the CouchOnce You Go BackOne Flew Over The Cuckoo's NestOne Good TurnOne More WednesdayOne Pill Makes You SmallerOptic Nerve #11Our Souls at NightOver Tumbled GravesPaint It BlackPanicParadiseParadise LodgeParanoiaParty GirlPeculiaPerfect LivesPharmakonPhobicPianoPictures of YouPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying with 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JarSourlandSpeakSpeaking With the AngelSpeed ShrinkingSquirrel Seeks ChipmunkSshhhh!Stealing TimeSteel BreezeStill AliceStill MissingStir-FryStoner & SpazStop PretendingStraight ManStrange FleshStrange Stories for Strange Kids Summer BlondeSunstrokeSupreme CourtshipSwimmerSwimming Sweet ArrowSwimming to ElbaSwimming with StrangersSworn to SilenceSylvia PlathTaking FlightTales of PsychotherapyTalking to AddisonTeaseTell the Truth, Shame the DevilTestimonyThat Old Cape MagicThe 101 Best Graphic NovelsThe 7 Deadly Sins SamplerThe Abortionist's DaughterThe Abstinence TeacherThe AccidentalThe AdultsThe AlienistThe Almost MoonThe Arctic IncidentThe Artist of DisappearanceThe Austere AcademyThe Average American MarriageThe AwakeningThe Babes in the WoodThe Bad BeginningThe Beach HouseThe Beast of CretaceaThe Beat Goes OnThe Bell JarThe Best AwfulThe Big GirlsThe Big KissThe Big LoveThe Bird HouseThe Bird WomanThe Birthday RiotsThe Bitch PosseThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe Blue NotebookThe 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ChildrenWell-Remembered DaysWemberly WorriedWhat Became of UsWhat It Means to Love YouWhat the Birds SeeWhat Waiting Really MeansWhat Was She Thinking? Notes on a ScandalWhat We Don't Know About ChildrenWhat's So Terrible About Swallowing an Apple Seed?When We Were AnimalsWhen We Were OrphansWhere We LivedWhite HotWhy Did I EverWidowWild AwakeWild ChildWill@epicqwest.comWillful CreaturesWitWithout TessWolf in White VanWomen's Murder Club Box SetYou or Someone Like YouYou Should Have KnownYou Will Know MeYour Body is ChangingYour Heart Belongs to MeZapZap
This compact volume, by Princess Marthe Bibesco (1886-1973), has the thrilling depth of human emotion one expects of a Russian novel, without the characteristic intimidating size. Although Bibesco herself was a member of the Romanian nobility, and the daughter of that country's minister of foreign affairs, her story of exiled Russian aristocrats living in Biarritz hints of autobiography. Written in French in 1924, the book was translated into English by Malcolm Cowley in 1929, and his translation was reissued by Turtle Point Press in 1994.
The small book's large subjects almost seem to announce themselves in bold type. It is about, in order of appearance, GRIEF, LOVE, DESPAIR, TRANSCENDENCE OVER DESIRE, BEAUTY, REINCARNATION, INCEST, MENTAL ILLNESS, and SUICIDE. It is also about exile, wealth, war, and the shifting of power in 20th-century Europe. Many of these issues, both personal and global, figured significantly in Bibesco's own life. (For more background on her, see Enchantress: Marthe Bibesco and Her World by Christine Sutherland, Seamus Heaney, and Derek Walcott, 1997) And yet, in spite of its grand themes, The Green Parrot trips gently along, revealing its secrets through the voice of a middle daughter who seems quite sane, whose only mission appears to be the sorting out of her strange family's sad history. Without ever mentioning her name, the narrator creates an intimate bond with her readers.
The central event in her parents' lives is the death of their beloved son, Sasha, at the age of eight, which the parents take as a judgment of God against their union. The parents are first cousins, exiled from Russia by his father because of their semi-incestuous marriage. At first they believe their son's birth is proof that the marriage was blessed; his premature death brutally twists the interpretation. The births of five daughters only intensify the parents' grief: years after his death, Sasha's is still the only birthday they celebrate. The girls are raised by servants and largely ignored, even as the mother continually fantasizes about what her precious boy would be doing had he lived. These fantasies gradually delude her until she believes he is living and that, among other things, he's winning the Great War for Russia (which takes place in what would have been his early thirties.)
Finding very little love or connection available near at hand, the narrator searches for answers to some of the family's mysteries, and for solace in her loneliness. Though married for a time, she loves completely only twice. The first occurs when she is eight years old (the same age at which her revered brother died) and walking to church with her mother. The eponymous green parrot suddenly lands on her muff. The bird symbolizes spring for her, and life; it speaks with a human voice when so few of the humans around her seem able to . . . and it alights purposefully on her, as if it is a messenger direct from God. For many years, she dreams of owning the parrot herself and finally, in her inability to possess it, learns yet another sad lesson about detachment.
The second great love of her life is her youngest sister Marie, a great beauty and the image of herself, so closely identified that the connection, for both of them, is almost a kind of self-love. But the permeating, mysterious love that guides and defines the narrator as well as so many others--the love that prefigures her relations with both the parrot and her sister--is that for the long-dead brother she doesn't even remember. Is this incest? If so, how tragic is it? How destructive?
Our heroine says of "the guilty passion of brother for sister and sister for brother": "This love kindled in those of the same blood--a blood that seeks after and prefers itself, that finds gratification in itself alone--does it belong to one era rather than another?" As she learns more about her own family, she finds that the guilty passion does, in fact, transcend eras. The ancestor she most resembles (who engages in forbidden relations with her own brother) has the "strange disease . . . called manic-depressive insanity or folie circulaire," her mother is clearly out of touch with reality, and her second sister, Elizabeth, is committed to an asylum, diagnosed simply as "mad." Does incest cause madness? Or vice versa? Are both unavoidable aspects of having royal blood?
The truth about this family's small gene pool unfolds with apparent inevitability. At the same time, though, some of the revelations are so surprising they give the reader chills. The beautifully-written novel moves seamlessly between tender love story, intriguing family history, and thriller, tempting a reader to consume it all in one sitting.
First Serial Rights © 2001 Heather Liston
Heather Liston studied Religion at Princeton University and earned a Masters degree from the NYU Graduate School of Business Administration. She is the Managing Director of the National Dance Institute of New Mexico, and writes extensively on a variety of topics. Her book reviews and other work have appeared in Self, Women Outside, The Princeton Alumni Weekly, Appalachia, Your Health and elsewhere.