We have a classy novel coming out next summer, the final manuscript set to land on our desk any day now and the cover in design. The Boston Castrato by Colin Sargent contains many themes and wonderful characters, and is a striking introduction to many facets of Boston life in the 1920s. Paramount among those is the poet Amy Lowell who had skipped our attention till now. Amy and her companion Ada Russell might have outmuscled Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in a wrestling ring and were very much of that ilk. Perhaps it was their staying in the family’s baronial pile in Boston that kept their reputation more local, while Gertrude and Alice queened it in Paris. Hopefully this new novel will boost the Bostonians’ reputation a little.
Here’s how Chapter 11 introduces the pair, our principle protagonist Raffi climbing the stairs of their home:
‘Raffi followed Victor up two landings to the third floor. Victor put his finger to his lips as they stood in the open doorway of an immense room lined with nail-studded leather Chesterfields.
At the bar, three sleepy-eyed gentlemen nursed drinks beside two gamine ingénues. Amid the murmur, cat slept on an ebony piano, sun-faded to a pearly gray. Center stage, on an overstuffed tapestry couch, their hostess lounged in silken trousers, puffing on an Ilusione cigar. Beside her Ada Russell sat stiffly, her face as well as arms crossed, her forked cane leaning against her chair.’
And here is the newly minted poem Amy Lowell goes on to recite:
You are beautiful and faded
Like an old opera tune Played upon a harpsichord;
Or like the sun-flooded silks
Of an eighteenth-century boudoir.
In your eyes
Smoulder the fallen roses of out-lived minutes,
And the perfume of your soul
Is vague and suffusing,
With the pungence of sealed spice-jars.
Your half-tones delight me,
And I grow mad with gazing
At your blent colours.
My vigour is a new-minted penny,
Which I cast at your feet.
Gather it up from the dust,
That its sparkle may amuse you.
Here is the Poetry Foundation’s Amy Lowell page for more. We look forward to bringing Amy and Ada to you in The Boston Castrato next summer, full-bodied and alive and in great company.