A review of

The Rooster’s Wife

by Russell Edson

Central question: How far is it from here to absurdity?
Format: 92 pp., cloth; Size: 9" x 7"; Price: $22.00; Publisher: BOA Editions; Editor: Thom Ward; Print run: 3,000; Typeface: Century schoolbook; Cover art: Russell Edson; Cover design: Steve Smock; Typesetting: Scott McCarney; Author’s father was: a cartoonist; Author’s response to queries regarding his frequent use of ellipses: “I always leave the drawers open around my house too.” Representative passage: “A woman wanted to sell one of her knuckles… / Tell me, she said, How many carats do you think it is? / But it’s not a jewel, said the jeweler. / Nor are you, said the woman, Much less a gentleman.”

A few weeks ago, shortly after my mother’s ninetieth birthday, I went to visit her at the assisted-living facility where she has lived for a little under a year. I walked into the lobby where a squad of septuagenarians sat, walkers at the ready, listening to Bing Crosby croon.

As I started to walk down the hall to my mother’s room, I was cut off by a shrunken stick of a woman in a wheelchair, who guided her chair into the hallway just in front of me. Since the halls are narrow, I had to amble behind her at a slow-but-steady rate of about five feet per fifteen seconds. I know this because I had the opportunity to check my watch several times as we proceeded toward the TV room, the main gathering area for the residents.

Once in the TV room, I saw a group of about seven or eight seniors, sitting in the first two rows of several rows of folding chairs much like the gaudily upholstered ones I associate with funeral parlors. To my amazement and delight, the woman in front of me wheeled over to the group and began to lead them in a hearty round of “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” This struck me as funny, of course, but also life affirming and oddly beautiful.

The woman in the wheelchair, I later found out, is the resident aerobics instructor. A wheelchair-bound woman who teaches aerobics would fit right in with the cast of characters in Russell Edson’s The Rooster’s Wife. She would feel completely at home with the wrinkly old man with nasty genitals and the old man who dresses in drag to entertain his cat.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Christopher Kennedy

Christopher Kennedy is the author of Nietzsche’s Horse, Trouble with the Machine, and Encouragement for a Man Falling to His Death, due from BOA Editions next year. He is the director of the M.F.A. program in creative writing at Syracuse University.

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