Now this story is more my speed. A seemingly simple story about a woman’s deepening obsession – affair, almost – with her prized bowl, and the hold it seems to develop on her thoughts, her life. But, as with any good story, there’s more going on under the surface, and the title hints at that.
Her lover had said that she was always too slow to know what she really loved. Why continue with her life the way it was? Why be two-faced, he asked her.
But what’s going on in this story? It reminds me a lot of Pamela Zoline’s “The Heat Death of the Universe” in which the reader slowly comes to realize that there’s a fundamental problem with the protagonist, a weakness, and inability to live fully within their own life. The bowl comes to symbolize her… what? Her desire for a life that is pristine, empty, picture perfect? Here’s the last paragraph:
Time passed. Alone in the living room at night, she often looked at the bowl sitting on the table, safe and still, unilluminated. In its way, it was perfect: the world cut in half, deep and smoothly empty. Near the rim, even in dim light, the eye moved toward one small flash of blue, a vanishing point on the horizon.
See what I mean about the bowl being an elusive but intriguing metaphor? She’s successful, married to a man with whom she gets along, but there is discontent. The fact that she had a lover attests to that, the fact that she’s growing estranged from her husband, that she’s projecting so strongly onto a bowl. Ultimately, I think the bowl comes to represent an idealized version of her own self; beautiful, powerful, empty, perfect, still. She’s Janus faced in that she’s going through the regular motions of her own life, when instead, as her lover pointed out, she’s duplicitous, hides herself away, refuses to engage with the very life she’s leading.
And oh, it was very nicely written too. Go Ann Beatie!