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The Multiply Framed Narratives of Ellen Douglas’s Can’t Quit You, Baby

The Multiply Framed Narratives of Ellen Douglas’s Can’t Quit You, Baby The Multiply Framed Narratives of Ellen Douglas’s Can’t Quit You, Baby by Matthew Luter It is accurate but perhaps a bit reductive to begin discussing Can’t Quit You, Baby (1988), the accomplished novel by Ellen Douglas (pen name of Jose - phine Haxton), by pointing out that at its center is the unusual bond between Cornelia, a white middle- class woman in Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s, and Julia, her African- American working- class housekeeper, nicknamed Tweet. The inescapable inequality in their friendship makes their relationship a tumultu- ous one. Over the course of the novel, Cornelia deals with the untimely death of her husband and eventually becomes a caretaker for Tweet following the lat- ter’s stroke. The novel is structured largely in flashback, as a self- aware narrator recounts Cornelia’s past directly to the reader and Tweet recounts her own past to Cornelia. This description is true enough, but it also elides much of the intricacy of the novel’s form as well as Douglas’s nuanced presentation of the difficulties, spoken and unspoken, of cross- racial interaction. Douglas’s use of a highly intrusive narrator who sometimes calls the factual- ity of her own narration into doubt — and http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

The Multiply Framed Narratives of Ellen Douglas’s Can’t Quit You, Baby

The Southern Literary Journal , Volume 46 (1) – Feb 13, 2014

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 the Southern Literary Journal and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English.
ISSN
1534-1461

Abstract

The Multiply Framed Narratives of Ellen Douglas’s Can’t Quit You, Baby by Matthew Luter It is accurate but perhaps a bit reductive to begin discussing Can’t Quit You, Baby (1988), the accomplished novel by Ellen Douglas (pen name of Jose - phine Haxton), by pointing out that at its center is the unusual bond between Cornelia, a white middle- class woman in Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s, and Julia, her African- American working- class housekeeper, nicknamed Tweet. The inescapable inequality in their friendship makes their relationship a tumultu- ous one. Over the course of the novel, Cornelia deals with the untimely death of her husband and eventually becomes a caretaker for Tweet following the lat- ter’s stroke. The novel is structured largely in flashback, as a self- aware narrator recounts Cornelia’s past directly to the reader and Tweet recounts her own past to Cornelia. This description is true enough, but it also elides much of the intricacy of the novel’s form as well as Douglas’s nuanced presentation of the difficulties, spoken and unspoken, of cross- racial interaction. Douglas’s use of a highly intrusive narrator who sometimes calls the factual- ity of her own narration into doubt — and

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Feb 13, 2014

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