About this book
Helen Weinzweig • Jim Polk
In this brilliant debut novel by Helen Weinzweig, the award-winning author of Basic Black With Pearls, a wedding reception becomes a gothic dream in which the bride, groom, family, and guests struggle with private obsessions, guilty fantasies of sex and power, and the constant failure of love. The bride is not all she seems and there is something ambiguous about the groom — and about everyone else at the surreal and strangely moving wedding.
Like a piece of music, Passing Ceremony is composed of brief, suggestive fragments that grow into a tightly integrated whole. There are bits of real and imagined conversation; polite dialogues that slide into mad comic banality; and scenes that could be quiet nightmares out of Borges.
A satire and a rueful mediation on the ways people hurt one another, Weinzweig gives us a world suspended in time, an uneasy territory of the soul, which we all inhabit.
This edition features a new introduction by Jim Polk.
You sit there, father of the bride, you sit there straight and proud. In the middle of a middle row to the right of the aisle. How is it you are not in your rightful place, in the second pew to the left, beside the mother of the bride? It is your son Thomas who sits there in your stead.
You are being examined: more eyes are on you than on your daughter repeating her vows. Speculations. You are taking an awful risk being here. And if you had to bring your little dark wife, poor child, so young, why did you not dress her properly?
And as sensitive observers we should be registering your deeply moving feelings, or, at the very least, some sentimental reflections. You are being stubborn. We cannot read you. Give us something to go on: some memories, a few regrets. Alternatively, cogent theories on marriage gleaned from your vast studies: references to tribal customs would be acceptable. Yet nothing of literary interest comes through. No philosophies? We remember you as quite a philosopher, with a tendency to place mundane events in historical, usually ancient Greek, perspective. Surely, this is the very moment . . . ah . . . a passing thought: the groom appears to you as a man without bones, the kind whose flesh is as yielding as a woman’s; and the idea of those two softnesses copulating is disgusting to you. Too strong? Offensive, merely, then. That will have to do for now. Perhaps, later, at the reception, after a few drinks, we’ll get back to you.