Cassandra at the Wedding
Publication Date: September 30, 2004
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Cassandra Edwards is a graduate student at Berkeley: gay, brilliant, nerve-wracked, miserable. At the beginning of this novel, she drives back to her family ranch in the foothills of the Sierras to attend the wedding of her identical twin, Judith, to a nice young doctor from Connecticut. Cassandra, however, is hell-bent on sabotaging the wedding.
Dorothy Baker's entrancing tragicomic novella follows an unpredictable course of events in which her heroine appears variously as conniving, self-aware, pitiful, frenzied, absurd, and heartbroken—at once utterly impossible and tremendously sympathetic. Cassandra reckons with her complicated feelings about the sister who she feels owes it to her to be her alter ego; with her father, a brandy-soaked retired professor of philosophy; and with the ghost of her dead mother, as she struggles to come to terms with the only life she has.
First published in 1962, Cassandra at the Wedding is a book of enduring freshness, insight, and verve. Like the fiction of Jeffrey Eugenides and Jhumpa Lahiri, it is the work of a master stylist with a profound understanding of the complexities of the heart and mind.
Dorothy Baker (1907–1968) was born in Missoula, Montana, in 1907 and raised in California. After graduating from UCLA , she traveled in France, where she began a novel and, in 1930, married the poet Howard Baker. The couple moved back to California, and Baker completed an MA in French, later teaching at a private school. After having a few short stories published, she turned to writing full time, despite, she would later claim, being “seriously hampered by an abject admiration for Ernest Hemingway.” In 1938, she published Young Man with a Horn, which was awarded the prestigious Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship Award. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1942 and, the next year, published Trio, a novel whose frank portrayal of a lesbian relationship proved too scandalous for the times; Baker and her husband adapted the novel as a play in 1944, but it was quickly shut down because of protests. Her final novel, Cassandra at the Wedding, examined the relationship between two exceptionally close sisters, whom Howard Baker asserted were based on both Baker herself and the couple’s two daughters. Baker died in 1968 of cancer.
Deborah Eisenberg is the author of four collections of short stories and a play, Pastorale. She is the winner of the 2000 Rea Award for the Short Story, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, and five O. Henry Awards. The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg won the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award. She lives in New York City.
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