The short story, Revelation, by Flannery O’Connor, starts off with a Mrs Turpin in a doctor’s waiting room with her husband Claud…
“That’s a beautiful clock,” she said and nodded to her right. It was a big wall clock, the face encased in a brass sunburst.
“Yes, it’s very pretty,” the stylish lady said agreeably. “And right on the dot too,” she added, glancing at her watch.
The ugly girl beside her cast an eye upward at the clock, smirked, then looked directly at Mrs. Turpin and smirked again. Then she returned her eyes to her book. She was obviously the lady’s daughter because, although they didn’t look anything alike as to disposition, they both had the same shape of face and the same blue eyes. On the lady they sparkled pleasantly but in the girl’s seared face they appeared alternately to smolder and to blaze.
This is what I imagined, more or less, based on clocks I had seen in real life, or on TV. I think there was a vogue for this sort of thing in the 60’s and 70’s.
To my mind it is kind of loud and garish. Does Mrs. Turpin really think it’s beautiful or is she just making conversation? Where’s her head at?
Mark Winegardner references this scene in the essay – Learning to Lie: An Exercise in Details, which was in the book Naming the World and other Exercises for the Creative Writer.