25 August, 2011
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.
Granta 110: Sex
review on A Just Recompense blog