Bishop, Elizabeth. Prose. Ed Lloyd Schwartz. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The short story “The Baptism” by Elizabeth Bishop seems to want a second iteration as visual art. Most prose with good word-images doesn't make me want image-images, but, for whatever reason, this piece does. My gut feeling is that another reader might feel the same way.
Has someone already used this story to make pictures? If the images exist, I haven’t come across them, and can’t readily find them online. If they're not extant (or not much good) and you have the ability to make them (or make a better version), please consider doing so.
“The Baptism” is not a happy story. It has sisters, menial labour, mental illness, religiosity as a consequence of mental illness, winter, and a short bleak spring. I feel like it’s set in Nova Scotia, though I don’t know if I could prove that it’s set in Nova Scotia by using evidence from the text. I mention all this to give some context to the quotations below, because, if you haven’t read the story, these pull-quotes might make you dream up images which wouldn’t be in keeping with the story’s mood.
(3) “When the snow grew too deep – it grew all winter, as the grain grew all summer, and finally wilted away unharvested in April – Old Mr Jonson, who had the post-office now, would bring the newspaper on his way home.”
(3) “Emma thought of hanging out the washing, which was frozen before you got it on the line. The sheets particularly – it was like fighting with monster icy seagulls.”
(4) “They baked bread once a week. In the other bedroom there were ropes and ropes of dried apples. They ate apple-sauce and apple-pie and apple-dumpling, and a kind of cake paved with slices of apple.”
(5) “It got to be Christmas-time. The snow was up to the window-sills, practically over, as if they inhabited a sinking ship. Lucy’s feeling of guilt grew heavier and heavier.”
These quotations barely let you get a toe in, but I hope they’re enough to convince you to read the story.