Short Stories All the Time

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

21 May, 2012

Patricia de Martelaere, "My Hand is Exhausted"

This story begins with a title that gives a hint at what's to come, exhaustion. Although the title is first-person the story is written in third-person. I love the depths that the author explores this woman's passive aggressive behavior and her miserable existence. She's self-loathing and feels as though no one listens to her while death sits all around, "One single arrow-shaped blade is enough to send any adult to the grave, irretrievably." I think the oleander paragraph is probably the funniest of the entire story.

from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
 Esther, the main character, is an artist but she hates for her hands to get dirty. Most artists do not notice while in the thralls of creation that their hands have become soiled. Ester, forty-five years old, has never had a relationship. Most of her models are men but states, "There is no difference between a man and a plaster statue, a bowl of fruit or a sansevieria." "Actually, it makes absolutely no difference to her whatsoever, what she draws." And, she wishes she could draw under a running tap so she didn't get dirty. We do not learn just how Esther came to be an artist. She's not suited to it but it keeps her busy until her hands become exhausted, I suppose.

 One of my favorite parts is the description of the artist Gao Qipei and his painting of a tiger. This image must be the one she's mentions as she describes it, "It is an unusual tiger, impressive and endearing. A tiger from the rear; a little sheepish, with the chubby backside of a bear, but still with great dignity." What a great description and when I found this tiger, I knew it had to be the one.

 Esther talks quite a bit about inside and outside and her mother has told her so often how when Esther was a child she wanted to turn the tiger painting around so she could see the tiger's face. Esther doesn't believe it was true but has embraced it nevertheless because of the repetition.

The story is ultimately about love, rejection, dying; the psychological study of this woman's self-loathing. In all her life it appears that she has had one instant of hope and that was when Peter said that he'd met someone and her name begins with an E. "And in that short second, the possibility that it would be like the movies..." but Peter had fallen for Elizabeth and this is when Esther decides that "love passes" and "life passes" as well. I think Esther's "hand" at trying to live is exhausted yet do not get the sense she's suicidal.

"My Hand is Exhausted" is included in the 2012 edition of Best European Fiction. It is the opening story and I'm even more anxious to continue reading this promising collection of short stories.

FAVORITE LINE: "A crying man is impossible to draw; it's even worse than a naked man."

Wikipedia page about Martelaere