Woman, like you are the reason old men can fall in love again.
In this Lee Smith story, a feisty retirement center resident is on the verge of being kicked out of her writing club; her memories are not happy enough. Instead, they are bold and funny and poignant... and slightly naughty. The story provides a model for Barbara's postscript, enticing us all to reflect on our own memories.
And a follow-up "Our Own Stories" workshop works great!
“The Happy Memories Club” (from Lee Smith’s most recent stories collection, “Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-eyed Stranger”) is my favorite of her stories, and Lee has expressed similar sentiments about my adaptation and performance of it.
“I may be old, but I’m not dead,” declares Alice Scully, adding, “Passionate affairs are not uncommon here at Marshwood Retirement Center.” And she details her relationship with Solomon Marx, historian. A former English teacher herself, she joins the Center's new writing group. Listening to the voice too long silent inside her, she is flooded by memories which she reads to the group. “The Happy Memories Club” finds her offerings unpleasant and shocking. But for Alice they are a catharsis. And they give us new insights into matters of aging and the value of personal insights.
A Postscript about a follow-up “Our Own Stories” Workshop:
King College News about the Buechner Institute event:
Smith takes some of our finest literature and turns it into one-woman shows, as in Lee Smith's "The Happy Memories Club," reflecting upon the critical business of paying attention to our own life stories. "We are excited to have Barbara perform here," said Dale Brown, director of the Buechner Institute.
At a student workshop, both teachers and students were astonished at what they learned about each other, plus the satisfaction of telling “Their Own Stories.”
The evening was first-rate. And I have heard great things from Liz and her students. We look forward to bringing you back.
-Dale Brown, Director, Buechner Institute; Chair, English Department
Happy Memories Club may be my favorite Lee Smith story. Love the way you do it, Barbara!
-Kathryn Stripling Byer, former NC Poet Laureate
It's art from the heart. The best!
-Marya Roland, Associate Professor, Western Carolina University
Your “Happy Memories Club” performance last night and your “Our Own Stories” workshop were both excellent and powerful.
-Larry Davis, Greenbrier Valley Theatre, WV
You and Jeff created a magical time, transporting us into a setting with form and people that actually live.”
-Lorna Sterling, Waynesville NC
New York Times Book Review excerpt:
Lee Smith also has a soft spot for incorrigibles like the former teacher in “The Happy Memories Club,” who refuses to placate an amateur writing group that appears to prefer its fare upbeat and scrubby-clean. Smith’s book, you suspect, is the one those club members would sneak under their bedcovers to read by penlight.”