Of course, nothing illustrates so vividly as family the essentially unsatisfactory nature of being a person. The first thing one learns in life is that the self is a partial thing; at the very moment of birth one is consigned to terminal separateness. The one attribute we can be sure that we all share is incompleteness. And perhaps that’s our strongest suit, because without it where would we be? Off alone, each of us, in his or her own little tree house, complete, fulfilled, entirely happy in the perfection of solitude—no love, for example, and no family.
If we sought the company of others only for help, say, in building our individual tree houses, human associations would last no longer than it takes to pound some nails into a board. Surely, among the things that draw us together with such binding force is the painful longing to fit our own jagged, torn edges together with those of another, to become complete. And if we think of love as the oblique and approximate remedy for this painful longing which Plato describes so vividly, we could say that family is the arena in which we first encounter that remedy’s comical and terrible disappointment.
—from Deborah Eisenberg’s afterword to Dorothy Baker’s Cassandra at the Wedding. Cassandra is a smart young girl living in Berkeley in the early 60s and very close to her identical twin sister, Judith. Judith’s upcoming marriage to her nice but slightly bourgeois doctor boyfriend from Connecticut in their familial ranch in the Sierras throws Cassandra into an emotional tailspin. Next week we’ll be releasing Baker’s first novel, Young Man with a Horn, both with cover art from the Bay Area Figurative School painter David Park.