A Book of Common Prayer
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Writing with the telegraphic swiftness and microscopic sensitivity that have made her one of our most distinguished journalists, Joan Didion creates a shimmering novel of innocence and evil.A Book of Common Prayer is the story of two American women in the derelict Central American nation of Boca Grande. Grace Strasser-Mendana controls much of the country's wealth and knows virtually all of its secrets; Charlotte Douglas knows far too little. "Immaculate of history, innocent of politics," she has come to Boca Grande vaguely and vainly hoping to be reunited with her fugitive daughter. As imagined by Didion, her fate is at once utterly particular and fearfully emblematic of an age of conscienceless authority and unfathomable violence.
light. The bush and the sea do not reflect the light but absorb it, suck it in, then glow morbidly. Boca Grande is the name of the country and Boca Grande is also the name of the city, as if the place defeated the imagination of even its first settler. At least once each year, usually on the afternoon of the Anniversary of Independence, the Boca Grande Intellectual Union sponsors a debate, followed by a no-host cocktail party, as to who that first settler might have been, but the arguments are
required to follow them around and tap their telephones. “Grace thinks Bebe Chicago and I are using you,” Gerardo said. “Delicious,” Elena said. “Do it.” “Actually that’s not the dynamic.” Gerardo smiled at me and Elena. “Actually I’m using Bebe Chicago. Listen to this girl. I like the lisp and the pinafore together. Very nice.” “All you think about is sex,” Elena said. “You wish that were true,” Gerardo said. “But it’s not.” “She bores me,” Carmen Arrellano said sullenly. Carmen had been
insofar as she passed through Boca Grande, only insofar as the meaning of that sojourn continues to elude me. 3 ACCORDING TO HER PASSPORT, ENTRY VISA, AND INTERNATIONAL Certificate of Vaccination, Charlotte Amelia Douglas was born in Hollister, California, forty years before her entry into Boca Grande; was at the time of that entry a married resident of San Francisco, California; was five-feet-five-inches tall, had red hair, brown eyes, and no visible distinguishing marks; and had been
make routine contact with its consulate in Millonario. She noticed that the lights at the Capilla del Mar resembled those at the Tivoli Gardens. She did not notice that the pits in the porch railing at the Capilla del Mar resembled those made by carbine fire. “Actually it doesn’t involve me in the least,” Charlotte told me. “I mean does it.” When I told Charlotte in March that there would come a day when it might be possible to interpret her presence in certain situations as “political.”
finally. “You know what Antonio’s doing, you—” “I don’t know. I just suppose.” “—You suppose you know what Antonio’s doing, why don’t you discuss it with me? Why aren’t you with me?” “Because it doesn’t make any difference to me,” I said. Victor sat slumped in a chair. I have liked Victor on some occasions and pitied him on many. Edgar called him stupid. Luis laughed at him. Even Antonio was making a fool of him. I took his ridiculous manicured hand. “Because it’s going to happen,” I said.