Sunday, 22 April 2012

"You really are a sweet girl," he said, "even if you do act like a trotskyite dragon."

The earliest and best proof of McCarthy's explicitly political interest in one-sided heterosexual power struggles, can be found in her first book, ‘The Company She Keeps’, a collection of six loosely linked short stories, first published in 1942. While the subjects of the stories are men, the perspective belongs to Meg Sargeant, a young, radical, intellectual cipher for McCarthy, sexually and politically active in 1930's New York, whose various experiences and misadventures are painfully recorded and dissected.

“She might marry a second, a third, a fourth time, or she might never marry again. But, in any case, for the thrifty bourgeois love insurance, with its daily payments of patience, forbearance, and resignation, she was no longer eligible. She would be, she told herself delightedly, a bad risk.” (Cruel and Barbarous Treatment)

“The man’s whole assault on her now seemed to have a political character; it was an incidental atrocity in the long class war” (The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt)

“‘Ah,’ she said, ‘now you are on Frederick’s side. You think I ought to welcome my womanly role in life, keep up his position, tell him how wonderful he is, pick up the crumbs from his table and eat them in the kitchen.’” (Ghostly Father, I Confess)  
“The romantic life had been too hard on her. In morals as in politics anarchy is not for the weak. The small state, racked by internal dissension, invites the foreign conqueror.” (Ghostly Father, I Confess)  

A recent Observer review, by Sophia Martelli, offers an interesting summary: 

" Semi-autobiographical and self-revealing, The Company She Keeps is a jagged diamond of a book, the multifaceted parts giving a glimpse of a brilliant but fractured whole. "