Lady of Spain

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Lady of Spain is about love in the 1950s, when the solution to failed marriage was separate bedrooms and teenage sex was a furtive activity; when everybody - old and young - slow danced to romantic ballads played on the accordion. "Lady of Spain, I adore you..." The dancers are Bill and Billy Haynes, father and son, both spinning in the orbit of their Lady of Spain, Mrs. Haynes. Billy describes her: "Have I said that my mother was a beautiful woman? She was. I found this somewhat of an embarrassment, another ...
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Overview

Lady of Spain is about love in the 1950s, when the solution to failed marriage was separate bedrooms and teenage sex was a furtive activity; when everybody - old and young - slow danced to romantic ballads played on the accordion. "Lady of Spain, I adore you..." The dancers are Bill and Billy Haynes, father and son, both spinning in the orbit of their Lady of Spain, Mrs. Haynes. Billy describes her: "Have I said that my mother was a beautiful woman? She was. I found this somewhat of an embarrassment, another instance of how my family was not right. Mothers were supposed to be plump and gray, slightly younger versions of grandmothers, but mine was trim and dark, with auburn hair and hazel eyes that flashed brilliantly. Around the house during the summer she wore shorts and high-heeled wedge sandals, usually with a halter top..." Bill is a compulsive philanderer. And Billy is at a sexual crossroads. By the end of their story, Bill has lost his Lady of Spain and Billy has traded her in for the girl who took his eagerly offered virginity. Billy's sexual coming-of-age is complicated by acute and persistent memories: of sales trips taken with his father and the visits they paid to ladies; of his mother's insistence that Billy play his accordion for her "patients" at a Veterans' Hospital party; of muffled quarrels and crying from the bedroom in the family's vacation cabin; of the feel of a satin gown against a boy's body and lipstick on his lips; of the inside of a DeSoto, front seat and back; of nakedness on the floor of a shoe store basement. Lady of Spain, unabashedly confronts the force of male sexuality, its obsessive grip, its complexity, its pain, its joy, and its music.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in Oklahoma City, this lyrical, often witty novel explores a somewhat mundane 1950s boyhood. Vaguely interrelated episodes in protagonist Bill Haynes's life form the narrative, reflecting the way still-lucid recollections bind together our own hazy childhood memories. Affected by the contagious disillusionment of his unhappy parents, Billy poetically muses on his unremarkable middle-class world; Taylor captures his quintessentially adolescent attitudes in suitably grandiose yet playful prose. When introduced to jazz, Bill tires of playing such nostalgic odes as ``Lady of Spain'' on his accordion and takes up the clarinet, reasoning that ``one's own breath coursed through it, not air sucked in through a bellows.'' During his stint at a shoe store, he takes part in erotically charged rituals with female customers and rival salesmen (``I eased a satin slipper onto a girl's small and sleek foot. . . and conjured up a vision of some dark-eyed redeeming angel''). Taylor's ( Loving Belle Starr ) graceful treatment of a young man's coming-of-age, though far from extraordinary, reminds readers of unrequited early crushes, first sips of whiskey and startling glimpses of adulthood. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In this poetic coming-of-age story from the 1950s Midwest, Bill Haynes has turned his artistic talent for drawing into a career of designing and selling high school rings. Meanwhile, his son Billy develops a musical ear by playing the accordion, eventually finding his way into jazz. (``Lady of Spain,'' which his mother loves, is the tune he masters so well.) During his accordion years, Billy's mother, who is caught in a dissolving marriage, makes him her confidant. She creeps into his room at night, lies on the lower bunk, and lulls him to sleep with whispered dreams of how her life could be. But Billy finds his own life through an awakening sexuality. Katie, his high school sweetheart, helps him grow in his music, but it is Vernagene who sweeps him from stale existence to a rebellious infatuation that climaxes disappointingly in a shoestore basement. Through such letdowns, Billy comes to understand his father's own betrayal of his artistic talent. Pleasant, but not as powerful a narrative as it could have been.-- Brack Stovall, Carrollton P.L., Tex.
Mary Carroll
Fathers and sons--and their relationships with each other and with the women and girls in their lives--are the focus of this fourth book of fiction by Taylor, a Bucknell University English professor. The time is the mid-1950s; the place, Oklahoma City; the leading characters are Bill Haynes, a frustrated artist driving from one dusty Oklahoma town to another, selling class rings, diplomas, and caps and gowns to school boards, and Haynes' son, Billy, who learns to play the accordion and tries to figure out what it means to be a man. In this cycle of stories, Bill revisits past and present loves and watches his marriage unwind, while Billy falls into one sort of love or another with a Colorado waitress; his mother; his music teacher; jazz; his cousin Gloria Clara; his steady, Katie; and strange, scary, seductive Vernagene. But Bill's and Billy's involvement with women is only part of their story; the rest, Billy declares, is "the mystery of our relation, the connectedness that would curse and bless us long after that afternoon, that year, long beyond [my father's] death."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780945575795
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 9/1/1992
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 294

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