Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Egan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egan. Show all posts

23 January, 2012

Jennifer Egan, "Out of Body"

Egan uses a 2nd person POV with some shifts in "Out of Body." The point of view works well with the suicide subject matter and Rob's separations. Several times in the story he watches himself perform and react as though outside himself. Rob tells his own story in the second-person but it reads like a close first-person point of view.

"Out of Body" was first published in the journal, Tin House, issue number 43. Rob Spillman does not mention "Out of Body" in his introduction to that issue, Games People Play. However, Robert Freeman Jr. does play the most deadly of games, suicide. He's angry with his father (we never know why) and he's angry with himself and angry with Sasha. Despite the fact that she saved his life, he's fallen in love with her and never acted on it or realized it until she chose Drew.

Sasha was playing games of her own when she asked Rob to be her fake boyfriend because her father was having her followed by a private investigator. We never learn if this is true. In fact, there are a lot of backstory questions that are never answered but they do not need to be. I appreciate, in fact, how well the story stays in place with the characters at hand. Egan gives a believable account of the so-called out of body experience.

The first time I read the story, I was a little put off by the 2nd person POV but the next time I read it, I enjoyed it very much. I think it well deserves to be included in The Best American Short Stories collection for 2011.

Tin House, issue 43
Egan's web site

23 January, 2011

Jennifer Egan, "Safari"

"Safari" by Jennifer Egan was first published in The New Yorker and subsequently included in The Best American Short Stories 2010. It's written in present tense, omniscient viewpoint and in 4 spots moves into the future tense. It's 18 pages long.

Two kids, Charlene, 14, and Rolph, 11, are along with their father and his much younger girlfriend Mindy plus a myriad of others on an African safari. Several jumps to the future tell of the horrible lives for Rolph and Charlene. Marriage to Lou was not what Mindy believed her future to be. We do not find out about Albert's future.

The story is a coming of age story for Charlene and Rolph and a story about competition for Lou, Mindy, and Chronos. Lou marries Mindy to beat Albert and Chronos gets himself mauled by a lion to compete with his band mate. The story was entertaining and I felt like a voyeur probably because of the shifting viewpoint that at times was omniscient but close to the characters.

I enjoyed the story but I'm not sure if it is one that I'll read over and over again. Possibly. It is rather poignant when you find out what the future holds for the kids, Charlie (Charlene) and Rolph. But, on the other hand, the jumps to the future felt a little bit like trickery.

Well, I've read the story again and there is a lot of nice scene development, ease of movement of characters and comfort with interactions amongst the characters. I have more appreciation with the second reading.

I'm starting to feel like these BASS stories were selected by a novelist. Oh, wait, Russo is mostly a novelist.

The New Yorker, "Safari."
an interview, The Rumpus
Jennifer Egan's web page