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Hortense Calisher: Standard Dreaming

It is generally called a novella, though my copy has 127 pages. It tells the story of Niels Berners, a New York surgeon. He is divorced, is despised by his son, Raoul, and his conversations with his secretary are perfunctory and professional. He works in Chinatown and therefore many of his patients are Chinese. He has suddenly been faced with an epidemic of deaths of his Chinese patients. All the victims were middle-aged and all parents. He belongs to a small group who have been rejected by their children. And the two are connected, as Berners believes that the people have died because they are parents. In short, as far as Berners is concerned, there is a decline in the species because of a failure in the parent-child relationship. Is this really happening or is it a dream? And is this just a story told by an old woman (aged 61) who just does not understand the younger generation? Calisher tells the story well and her view is certainly interesting and different.

Publishing history

First published 1972 by Arbor House