The Company She Keeps
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This is the author’s first novel, which relates the experiences of a young bohemian intellectual. The six episodes create a fascinating portrait of a New York social circle of the 1930s. McCarthy’s bold insight and virtuoso style won her immediate recognition as one of the most accomplished, versatile, and penetrating writers in americanca.
own personality kept popping up, perversely, like a jack-in-the-box, to confound these theories. The most one could say was that the man was frustrated. She had hoped to “give him back to himself,” but these fits of self-assertion on his part discouraged her by making her feel that there was nothing very good to give. She had, moreover, a suspicion that his lapses were deliberate, even malicious, that the man knew what she was about and why she was about it, and had made up his mind to thwart
there was her aunt. She could not find out for herself; it would take a prince to tell her. This man now—surely he came from that heavenly world, that divine position at the center of things where choice is unlimited. And he had chosen her. But that was all wrong. She had only to look at him to see that she had cheated again, had tried to get into the game with a deck of phony cards. For this man also was out of the running. He was too old. Sound as he was in every other respect, time had made a
publisher, who had been concentrating on the English girl, looked across the table at you, sizing you up for the first time. “My God,” he said, “you’re certainly spirited about it.” Martin Erdman was watching you, too. He clapped his hands twice in pantomime and gave you a long, ironic smile. You bent your head and blushed, and, though you were excited, your heart sank. You knew that you were not a violent Trotskyist, and Erdman must know it too. It was just that you were temperamentally
for his incomprehension, his blunt severity, his egoism, that she had married Frederick in the first place. She had known from the very beginning that he would never really love her, and this was what had counted for her, far more than the security or the social position. Or rather perhaps she had felt that she was free to accept these things because the gift of love was lacking. When that man on the train had offered them to her she had had to refuse because love had been offered with them. And
suggest to you, Margaret, that this ordeal of your childhood has been the controlling factor of your life. You forgot it, blotted it out of your consciousness, just as you blotted your aunt out of your family history, yet you have never ceased to think about it for a single moment. You did not understand how you had escaped, you could never really believe that you had. Everything that happened afterwards seemed unreal to you, like a story, but you disguised this from yourself by turning