The more I delve into Caponegro’s art, the more I see an anthropologist at work–a Joycean scientist who curls bright, unexpected words (like “obnubilating”) around common and uncommon questions of heritage, soul and civilization. Anthropologist but also philosopher–a Plato with the vocabulary of Keats. Consider this sentence of “The Mother’s Mirror,” a story of a family, but more an investigation into how the family keeps itself apart (written in first person plural, an incredibly apt tense for Caponegro’s investigation):
Perhaps we keep our disappointment to ourself or perhaps we voice it, and once articulated, it is all too seductive to make a ritual of the words, as if they were beads of a rosary and we gathered by each repetition indulgences instead of alienation. (32)
It’s not often a sentence has four words in a row that start with vowels, yet this one does and ends in a unique alliterative and assonantal dance. As far as the thrust of the argument, this is an example of the narrator (and throughout the narrator speaks out of the mother’s concerns) trying to find a reason why the family turned out the way it did–why certain things bother them and why they build resentments and create secret lives, often having to do with sex.
This short fever pitch of prose ends with a five-page set piece in a bathroom where the family (mother, father and children) find themselves in a psycho-sexual circus where all go to pleasure themselves except the mother, who like the woman in the first story is worn down, ground into her own reality of aging.