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By Florence King

Confessions of a Failed Southern girl is Florence King's vintage memoir of her upbringing in an eccentric Southern relations, advised with the entire uproarious wit and gusto that has made her essentially the most fashionable writers within the state. Florence could have been a unhappiness to her Granny, whose dream of rearing an ideal Southern woman may by no means be rather fulfilled. yet in any case, as Florence reminds us, "no topic which intercourse I went to mattress with, I by no means smoked at the street."

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Surely the consumptives would have felt relief, mixed with wonder, to finally know what their disease was—and what it was not. It was not a curse. It was not an expression of personality or a punishment. For better and for worse, it was and is a disease. To be in physical pain is to find yourself in a different realm—a state of being unlike any other, a magic mountain as far removed from the familiar world as a dreamscape. Usually, pain subsides; one wakes from it as from a nightmare, trying to forget it as quickly as possible.

I had asked if we could go swimming that afternoon, in memory of the afternoon in Nantucket. We swam past scores of anxious parents bent on keeping their children from slipping under the white rope separating them from deeper waters, and then we lay on the dock on the far shore. It was so sunny, it was as if we were still swimming in the sun-air. We lay resting on the wooden slats, gauging each other’s desire to lie there forever against the knowledge that the longer you wait, the harder it is to swim back.

To be in physical pain is to find yourself in a different realm—a state of being unlike any other, a magic mountain as far removed from the familiar world as a dreamscape. Usually, pain subsides; one wakes from it as from a nightmare, trying to forget it as quickly as possible. But what of pain that persists? The longer it endures, the more excruciating the exile becomes. Will you ever go home? you begin to wonder, home to your normal body, thoughts, life? Ordinarily, pain is protective—a finely wired system warning the body of tissue damage or disease and enforcing rest for the bone to knit or the fever to run its course.

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