This story moves around Aunt Emily, a farm lady (that would become a well known fashion designer after she moved to New York) and Phelps Durham, a writer of romance novels. In due course the two would wed. First, everybody remembers how Phelps Durham, the famous writer of romance novels, looked like in reality, not as he appeared in the yellowish pictures that Aunt Emily kept around the house: a 6:10 ft. tattooed Yankee – too tall to be a serious writer - who couldn’t fit in a normal door frame, or in a rolling door, and who could start a storm with his deep breath and crush a brick without utensils, with his bare hands or feet, if you gave him the idea that he could do it. He looked funny when Aunt Emily, who was 5.2 feet, was around. His head was like an egg decorated with a fresh crew haircut. Aunt Emily’s head was round and her face was pale. Also Phelps’ and Aunt Emily’s personalities were opposite: Aunt Emily was docile, she would listen to everybody’s talk and always make concessions, while Phelps was one of those men that thought that only his opinion was right and who could convince anybody in a couple of seconds that whatever he was saying was the only truth that there was
The first chapter is dedicated to Phelps Durham only, to his passion for writing and his love for an actress Maggie – his first major flame, which he married shortly after they met in a fish market in downtown New York. Very soon their marriage fell apart. Maggie got increasingly troubled by a strange trembling (she called it “tremolo”) of her both hands. In her miserable state of mind she told Phelps one day that she didn’t want to have sex anymore, that she had enough of it. As Phelps and Maggie decided to divorce Phelps knew that he was dishonest, given that he was running away from a woman that was more than ever in need of somebody to take care of her.
Chapter two is dedicated to Aunt Emily: “People ask me all the time how was Aunt Emily Wagner in reality. I confess that I don’t know everything about Aunt Emily’s family. The way I describe her in this story is how I felt she was. I began seeing her more often after her family moved and lived on a farm next to ours. When I think of Aunt Emily there are two hypostases that are very distinctive and irreconcilable. First, when she was fifteen (I was seven at that time), her beauty was like a “peach flower whispering to a spring breeze”. I found the above quotation in a small book called “How to impress a young lady with versatile poetry”. First I thought that versatile was the name of a poet. Her beauty, Aunt Emily’s, made me feel happy and also uncomfortable. I’d stand next to her and pinch her arm. I was in love with her, nobody would doubt that. As opposed to Phelps that had a modest background and worked very hard to make a living from his writing, Aunt Emily was born wealthy. Her dad used to collect vintage cars, among them a precious Rolls Royce that belonged to Winston Churchill.