Short Stories All the Time

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

23 April, 2011

Lori Ostlund, "All Boy"

"All Boy" is about a family, mother, father, and a precocious eleven-year old son, Harold, and housekeeper, Mrs. Norman, in which the father desires to come "out of the closet" and Harold wants to return to the closet in which Mrs. Norman put him while she watched her soap operas. The structure of this story is its strength, I think.

Harold has an idea about why Mrs. Norman was fired; it has affected his sense of his family until he finds out that he was mistaken. And, just after he finds out about this, his father tells him he is leaving and will not be "checking the windows and doors" at night. This disturbs the young Harold because "Harold considered it as much a part of bedtime as brushing his teeth and closing his eyes." The story is told from the viewpoint of outcast Harold. His mother wishes he had a friend and she offers explanations about Harold's behavior and always finishes with, "Harold's just all boy."

"All Boy" was first published in the New England Review and subsequently in The Best American Short Stories, 2010.

I like the story. No one is different at the end of the story, except that the father has admitted that he is gay and moves out. We see a family disintegrate which was already in trouble because Mr. Lundstrom, a banker, married a woman, which was against his nature. The story takes place in 1976 which is only referred to once concerning a Halloween party. I find Mr. Lundstrom particularly brave and honest given the time frame.

My favorite sentence about Harold: "He did not feel that he was being dishonest because he cared deeply about grammar and would have gone on using 'may' even without such incentives." It doesn't sound as funny isolated here but in the context of the story, it's hilarious and great.

Ostlund's web page
Ostlund reads "All Boy" on Vimeo
NPR, Richard Russo talks about "All Boy"
blog about Lori Ostlund
Short Review, Q&A with Ostlund