Strong and Wise Mothers; No Children, Please


Ask The Paris Review

Dear Lorin:
This Mother’s Day, I’d like to give my mom a thoughtful gift as a gesture of my deep love and respect for her. I’d like to give her a book with a strong, wise female character whom she might resemble. Do you have any suggestions?

Yes, I made that mistake once: I gave my mother To the Lighthouse—and told her that Mrs. Ramsay reminded me of her. She didn’t much like the comparison. Mrs. Ramsay is certainly strong and wise, and we want our mothers to be strong and wise, but so often our mothers have ideas of their own. I suggest Lydia Davis’s Collected Stories, which contains not only tributes to strong and wise mothers (including Mrs. D) but also funny and sympathetic stories about mothers under pressure.

My mother has an etiquette question: is it impolite to say when being seated in a restaurant “Away from children please,” given that she has four children (but they are adults and she didn’t take them to restaurants until they had manners). —A friend

This one I checked with my own mother, who managed a restaurant when my sister and I were children, and has pronounced views on restaurant etiquette. Her view: away from children, by all means! I feel the same. It is always depressing to see adult conversation sacrificed to the whims of some little psycho in a high chair, playing fort-da with its knife and fork. I think our mothers were absolutely right to leave us at home (even if, in my case, this has left me with an unslakable and expensive weakness for eating in restaurants, and for eating late, and generally for the company of grownups … )

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Have a question for The Paris Review? E-mail us.