Lore Segal
  • Review
By – September 16, 2011

If the estate and grounds adjoin­ing those of Jane Austen’s fam­i­ly home had become a Yad­do com­mu­ni­ty — with select­ed artists giv­en two weeks to two months to cre­ate— Austen, who spo­rad­i­cal­ly strug­gled with decid­ing titles for her books, might have opt­ed to immor­tal­ize the new neigh­bors with a work titled Pride and Prej­u­dice, and addi­tion­al­ly, Sen­si­bil­i­ty—but Sense? Hard­ly. Not as Lore Segal saw Yad­do. While min­ing the same intellectual/​personal ter­ri­to­ry, she did, how­ev­er, fan­ci­ful­ly title her novel­la Lucinel­la, a name that could have bobbed up in the 18th cen­tu­ry. In this anal­o­gy, New York par­al­lels Lon­don, as do Segal’s sur­names, names like Win­terneet and Bet­ter­wheatlings, anoth­er deli­cious con­ceit of ear­li­er (British) times, Segal pro­duced this work in 1976, pol­ish­ing and seg­ment­ing her pas­toral, bour­geois tale, includ­ing incar­na­tions of Zeus and Hera. Lucinel­la, a Yad­do res­i­dent, alter­nate­ly tar­gets and embraces her cohorts: this girl, who says what she actu­al­ly means, tends to mum­ble her words inside her mouth, so as to keep the option of eat­ing them.” Yad­do-ites come with emo­tion­al and cre­ative bag­gage, and some flaunt pedi­gree — hav­ing been pub­licly rec­og­nized finan­cial­ly, prefer­ably recent­ly. No bur­den­some pre-Vic­to­ri­an fam­i­lies here; at Yad­do most enjoy open­ly legal or, lack­ing that, spon­ta­neous cohabitation.

For those who remem­ber the 60’s – 70’s with grin­ning affec­tion, the new Melville House’s edi­tion of Lucinel­la is a boon, espe­cial­ly in its close-to-Kin­dle size, albeit with gray­ish, rather than black, print. For those with wry mem­o­ries, it changes noth­ing, but adds fresh admi­ra­tion for Segal’s facile abil­i­ty with mali­cious language.

Arlene B. Soifer earned degrees in Eng­lish, and has had many years of expe­ri­ence as a free­lance writer, edi­tor, and pub­lic rela­tions professional.

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