Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker
Sometimes the mistake is made of interpreting mixed feelings about something, a gasoline puddle of pleasure and boredom, as a signifier of the thing’s depth. If you don’t enjoy reading a philosopher then you must be lazy– it could not be that his ideas are possibly horribly presented, that you have a wonderful mind. I have very mixed feelings about this book.
I have very mixed feelings about this book. I’m not exactly placing Dorothy Baker on the same (low) plane as an old-dead-privileged-white-male philosopher, but this book did smack a little of that meandering philosopher, born into wealth, that spends a great deal of time talking but not saying much. The drama centers on a dysfunctional upper middle class white family in Southern California, 1960-something–not much new there. Cassandra struggles with her twin-ness, or twin-lessness; her mental health, her drinking, her vague sexuality. I found Baker’s the writing style got in the way of the story at times, matching the pretentiousness of the characters (I read later that Baker idolized Hemingway in the beginning of her career, go figure). As I read, I kept being reminded of Mrs. Dalloway and J. D. Salinger or Carson McCullers; this is part complementary comparison, part tugging feeling of triteness. Everything felt almost…but not quite…
Baker delves into some interesting ideas but gets hung up on psychological topics so trendy in the ’60s. There admittedly are passages with beautiful prose but I was ultimately left feeling dissatisfied. My feelings are mixed. Maybe I would have liked it better as a short story? Perhaps, like the characters, the book was simply too self-indulgent.