By William Dean Howells
Centering on a clash among a self-made millionaire and an idealistic reformer in turn-of-the-twentieth-century manhattan, A risk of recent Fortunes insightfully renders the complexities of the yankee event at a time of serious social and monetary upheaval and transformation. In its depiction of wealth, poverty, and manhattan urban existence, it continues to be a strikingly modern work.
Reproduced here's the authoritative Indiana collage Press version edited and annotated through David J. Nordloh, with complete scholarly statement and wide textual gear.
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Extra info for A Hazard of New Fortunes (Penguin Classics)
I knew about pirates and resurrections. I must have been hopping mad. You could try to find her; she’s somewhere on the latitude of the fence and the silo, the longitude of the barn and the shed. But if you do, you’ll only have the real thing she’s become—no longer a lie, but the truth of a lie, a plastic fact below the hard-packed dirt. Just another place where something happened, something no one else remembers, and that, in remembering, I am burying once again, marking with these marks that will not stay.
Do this when the meadows are alive with poppies. Do this when the swallow hangs her pendulous nest and the dew is warm and the days grow long. And all the living fluids will swirl within the hide, and the bones • 28 • will dissolve like bread in water. And a being will be born, and another, and then a thousand and a thousand thousand swarming without limbs or form. And that the wings will grow from atoms. And that the stirring wings will find their way into the air. And that a thousand stirring wings will come forth into the day like a storm of arrows made of wind and light.
And you saw how the room was like a clearing in a forest; the brambles fell away and the vault of sky appeared—the kind of story you were told again and again in the years before you could read. You had halfheard those words, like the thoughts of someone sewing, or someone compelled by bright flowers to • 39 • wander deeper and deeper from the road toward home. You could not be more alone in that place that was the source of all your forgetting. And then you recalled how the saint had said that a body tends to follow its own weight, its own weight to its own place, not always downward, not always toward the earth, but to its own place like fire rising upward.