Short Stories All the Time

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

25 August, 2011

Adam Foulds, "The Rules Are the Rules"

A delicate, meaning not overwrought, story about a priest trying to reconcile or balance his homosexuality with his community and the church. His faith is not waning so much as confusing or bewildering him. He yearns to be a father, maybe being the fatherly figure to a community is what attracted him to the priesthood? At the end of the story, we see him behaving in a fatherly or caring way with sexual overtones to Steve.

Peter is the father figure, the keeper of the rules, just as St. Peter (the first pope) is the father of the Catholic church.

Steve is his lover and late night visitor.

Natalie, a young congregant, kicks her feet as though she's a pendulum keeping and marking time for Peter. She appears twice in the story, early and late.

The climatic scene is of the christening of Rob and Cassie's baby, Harriet Sarah, when Peter's fatherly urge fills his stomach and to stop his yearning / pain he intentionally douses the infant with cold water which makes her cry. We see a man who respects rules, both secular and religious, yet his personality / sexuality defies categorization that the rules impose. He'll be forever torn until he leaves the church which does not seem likely unless his outbursts become too overt. I'm sure with time, he'll be unable to casually explain his actions which will probably become obvious.

"The Rules Are the Rules" was first published in Granta 110: Sex
issue and subsequently chosen for PEN / O'Henry Prize Stories 2011. I like the capitalization of the title. It gives an emphasis that, I think, is at the heart of the story, the rules ARE the rules and Peter wants to abide by them but his sexuality betrays him.

The story is written in a very close 3rd person POV and I never detected any point-of-view shifting. I think maybe that, in this case, this is particularly successful because I felt Peter's conflict and if the POV had shifted at times, the story wouldn't have been such an individual study but more of a community study. I also liked the way the scenes were divided with white space. It seemed to lend itself to showing Peter's attempts to participate and move through all aspects of his life. Also, I think I would have missed the importance of Natalie had one of her scenes not been so demarcated.

Wikipedia bio
Guardian article
Granta 110: Sex
review on A Just Recompense blog