Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer Novels ~ The More I Owe You

Elizabeth Bishop was already in her forties when she set sail for South America. First stop was a visit to her old friend Mary and Mary's Brazilian partner, Lota. Often Bishop's allergic reaction to a cashew is tied to how she became Lota's partner and lived the next 17 or so years in Brazil. If you're a Bishop fan (as I clearly am) you've probably read the collected letters, poems, stories, and critical accounts of her life and work. If so, you'll enjoy The More I Owe You by Michael Sledge all the more. Sledge has clearly done his homework --- visiting Brazil as well as all of Bishop's books and letters -- and those of her friends. I love how he drops words like "pellucid" and "binoculars" and "Mrs. Breen" into the text. It gives me a sense that his novel comes from the same fabric as Bishop's work -- if not quite the same caliber. I'm just under halfway through this 328 page paperback and I don't want it to end.  Although it is decidedly odd to have Bishop's lovemaking appear on the page (she would not have approved!) I do enjoy getting a nuanced view of Lota de Macedo Soares. The descriptions of Brazil indeed push me towards purchasing an airplane ticket and re-tracing Bishop's residences from Rio de Janero to Samambaia to Ouero Preto. In the meantime, I'm happy curling up with this delightful novel. I didn't expect to like it. Therefore the pleasure is all the more pronounced.


  1. Yes, it does seem to me to capture the essence of Lota & Elizabeth's relationship, it seems true to life, which is the most you can ask for biographically speaking from a novel! I'm glad I read it. But still, it made me sad.

    Thanks, Susan!

  2. thanks for introducing me to Elizabeth Bishop! I love her poems and could even find them in German!

  3. @ Marie and plantagenet -- thank you both so much!