Irish Linen

"I was wearing a dress of light-blue Irish linen. I could not afford to buy such material, because it came from a real country, not a false country like mine; a shipment of this material in blue, in pink, in lime green, and in beige had come from Ireland, I suppose, and Roland had given me yards of each shade from the bolts. I was wearing my blue Irish-linen dress that day, and it was demure enough--a pleated skirt that ended quite beneath my knees, a belt at my waist, sleeves that buttoned at my wrists, a high neckline that covered my collarbone--but underneath my dress I wore absolutely nothing, no undergarments of any kind, only my stockings, given to me by Roland and taken from yet another shipment of dry goods, each one held up by two pieces of elastic that I had sewn together to make a garter. My declaration of what I considered beneath me must have enraged Roland's wife, for she grabbed my blue dress at the collar and gave it a huge tug, it rent in two from my neck to my waist.


His wife, as she rent my dress, a dress made of material she knew very well, for she had a dress made of the same material, told me his history: it was not a long one, it was not a sad one, no one had died in it, no land had been laid waste, no birthright had been stolen; she had a list, and it was full of names, but they were not the names of countries." (172-3)

One more from Kincaid's The Autobiography of My Mother. New York: Penguin, 1997.

This passage is so great, because the linen is so much more than fabric, more than a gift; a true symbol. Also, just on its face, a great description of a dress. Is it current fashion? Can you guess what decade? I can't...the description is so perfectly timeless, plus I'm not sure Xuela is concerned with being fashionable, plus I'm far from up on island styles. It sounds cute and modest--the opposite of her character.

What do you think? So much clothing in this book, on and off of bodies. What is your favorite quotation?