Nancy Scott Hanway

Fiction and Language

Love is the Language

Fiction and LanguageNancy Scott HanwayComment

2013, the year Love became the official language of Minnesota This year, my two dear friends Anne and Anna were married in Minnesota, after eighteen happy years together. I have known Anne since college, and so I was involved in all the preparations: buying dresses, agonizing over shoes, consulting on matters of etiquette, discussing flowers and music, reception venues and invitations.

Despite the groundbreaking political context, the preparations were incredibly familiar. Just as in every other wedding, the couple kept some traditions and reinvented others. Anne and Anna were married in a church, with loved ones reading poems and bible passages, and with a sermon dedicated to their union. There was beautiful music. A flower girl heralded their procession. As their loved ones beamed proudly, they were given away by family members. Later we celebrated with an elegant buffet reception. In a nod to modernity (and the environment) Anne and Anna decided to go with emailed invitations instead of paper. The reception included karaoke.

In fact, while there were significant legal and cultural battles that had to be won for this ceremony to happen, there were no important traditions that need to be reinvented for a same-sex wedding. Here are the ones that Anne and Anna had to change: 1) Instead of one bridal dress, there were two lovely cocktail frocks. And 2) Well, there is no number two. Just the dress. Every other change was a matter of language.

After all, the traditional promise--and the central idea behind every wedding ceremony--is that the couple vow to love and honor one another against all odds, in a sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, something that Anne and Anna had already done for nearly two decades.

The rewording (spouse instead of husband, woman for man) in the ceremony didn't alter that profound vow. When my husband referred to himself as a "groomsman," I reminded him that he was a "bridesman." He loved that. "It sounds almost medieval," he said. "Like I'm the member of a royal wedding party."

And it did feel like the wedding of royalty, because it was both an intimate celebration and a public joy. Anne and Anna's union represents the happiness of so many other people. Not only the many friends they have gathered around them during their long and loving partnership, but the thousands of Minnesotans who are now free to marry.

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Reader, I Divorced Him

Fiction and LanguageNancy Scott HanwayComment

My short story, "Reader, I Divorced Him: Famous Literary Couples Untie the Knot," was just accepted for publication by Amarillo Bay to be published in November. This is a story in which I imagine divorce narratives from Jane Eyre ("Reader, I married him" is the most famous line from the novel) and  Pride and Prejudice (Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy do a "he said/she said").  

 

On fiction and language: Reading The Confederacy of Dunces in Paris

Fiction and LanguageNancy Scott HanwayComment

For years I hated American English. It was silly: the result of a childhood spent watching British television,and from studying Spanish and French in college. I was convinced that everything across the Atlantic was better, more sophisticated, more ironic. In particular, I hated the sound of Americans, especially the voices of U.S. tourists when I traveled. When I lived in Paris, I was unkind. If tourists came up to me on the street to ask directions, I pretended I didn't speak English. (That still makes me cringe.) And then came July. Everyone I knew had gone to Provence, and I was stuck in the city with the tourists and the stifling heat. I hadn't spoken or read in English for months, it seemed, when I passed by Shakespeare & Co. and saw John Kennedy Toole's The Confederacy of Dunces on an outdoor display. I had never read the novel before, so I picked it up and brought it home.

I learned several things from reading The Confederacy of Dunces that summer. I learned that the harsh, jangly American accent I had despised for so long was really something I loved. It was the most jarring experience to be laughing at Ignatius P. Reilly in English one minute and then hear neighbors going past my door speaking in French: their sounds so elegant and precise. And I realized that I was homesick for the language of America, which suddenly seemed rich and full of possibilities I had never imagined.

Shakespeare & Co. - by John Hurd / Creative Commons