Short Stories All the Time

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

25 February, 2017

Deborah Eisenberg, "The Girl Who Left Her Sock on the Floor"

The story begins with Francie being chastised by her roommate, Jessica, about Francie's leaving her sock on the floor. We see immediately that although Francie is smart and quick-witted, we also see that she is vulnerable. "She pulled her blanket up and turned to the window, her eyes stinging."

The story is divided into eight sections or scenes. Francie is a scholarship student at a ritzy "snooty" boarding school. Her mother had finally explained to Francie that her father had been run over by a bus. After her mother's death, Francie finds out that this was not true. Her mother had had the knack of creating stories about her and her daughter's life. Without necessarily lying, Francie's mother, left people with impressions.

One of the themes of the story, for me, is that the person who writes history makes up "things that had happened." The idea that history is always in the making is touched upon several times in the story. "Just think--things that you did went on and on, turning into situations, for example."

"Outside this building you lived as though nothing were happening to you that you didn't know about."

"'Anything can happen at any moment,' Jessica kept exclaiming. 'Anything can just happen.'"

Another theme could be made for the idea that while one thing is happening in our singular life, something else is happening to another person. "And yet her mother would have been dead while she herself had been asleep, dreaming." Something so simple and obvious but not remembered most of the time.

Also, life can change on a dime, so to speak, "All those hours during which her life (along with her mother) had gone from one thing to being another..."

On the bus ride to her father's home, Francie encounters Iris who has quite a story herself from which she has never emotionally recovered. I'm assuming the blimp accident refers to the July 4, 1993 incident in Manhattan with the Pizza Hut airship crashing into an apartment building on West 53rd Street. "The Girl Who Left Her Sock on the Floor" was first published in December 1994 in The New Yorker.

26 August, 2016

Deborah Eisenberg, "Mermaids" and Maud Casey, "It's a Wooden Leg First"

Deborah Eisenberg writes of young girls' burgeoning pubescence and the complex way in which adults assert their powers and what they assume is covert, but is not, to fulfill their own physical desires. Casey writes, "Yet she, too, relies on the visible to create mystery." The essay, "It's a Wooden Leg First," is about the way physical objects convey meaning and mystery, a turned off television "becomes the nexus of menace," in the story "Mermaids."

I was inspired to pull this story from my shelf because of Maud Casey's essay in A Kite in the Wind. She also discusses the way Eisenberg portrays time. "Though we are aligned with Kyla, the story manages to keep time by two different clocks simultaneously--the second-hand swiftness of adulthood and the dragging hour hand of childhood." Of course, Casey makes many other points, but this one stood out for me.

24 November, 2013

Deborah Eisenberg, "Your Duck is My Duck"

This first person POV story takes us to, possibly, Costa Rica, where ultra-rich Ray, he's a banker and developer, and Christa entertain guests, artists, in their beach houses. The artist, narrator, and the puppeteer, Amos, are treated as exotic pets and faux confidantes to Christa and her philandering husband, Ray. The beach houses in the beautiful landscape have replaced the locals and the banker, taking advantage of timing and drought conditions,  completes the ruin of the indigenous people. Then when his eucalyptus trees backfire, Ray and Christa, along with their rich friends, abandon the place and move on.

Amos, the puppeteer, has created a play that illustrates power regimes. The first title he gives his play is The Hand that Feeds You and later titles it State of Emergency.

One of the greatest characteristics about this story is the gifted way Eisenberg is able to show the complex husband and wife/developer, banker/spoiled trophy wife relationship with almost no interactions, except the sleeping pill scene, between husband and wife. She shows it through their interactions with others and a couple of snide remarks made by Christa.

The story is a mirror of our current situation in which the rich have unjustified, in fact, stolen, amounts of power and money and how the ultra-rich, some of them, continue to ruin the economy, the politics, and the environment. It's nothing new, in fact, it just feels that way because it is happening now to us.

"I was a little taken aback that I was being, I guess, anointed, but it was up to them how well they knew you, and I could only assume that their cordiality meant either that something good had happened to me which was not yet perceptible to me but was already perceptible to them, or else that something good was about to happen to me."

"Your Duck is My Duck" was originally published in the Fall 2011 issue of Fence and subsequently was included in the 2013 issue of The O'Henry Prize Stories.

Deborah Eisenberg Wikipedia page
Fence page