There’s no New Yorker magazine story to digest this week, so I have decided to discuss the relationship between the seven stories we have dissected here together. First though, I want to make sure all readers of this blog know they are very, very welcome to post comments. I don’t delete anyone’s comments, besides my own once, and I don’t mind if you disagree with me. I welcome all perspectives: hipsters, casual readers, rappers, player haters, anybody, even Vegetarians. The reason I started this blog is because I would often read New Yorker stories and want to share thoughts with someone. Sure, I have a few friends, but I wanted a wider discussion. Therefore, please comment.
A few different friends have asked me which of the seven stories so far is my favorite, and this is a hard question. With the exception of Homework, all these stories, in some way or another, bear the mark of great fiction. People often speak despairingly about The New Yorker’s fiction; however, I find the magazine’s stories offer some of the most interesting work around. So, my favorite story was a close contest between Saunders’ Puppy and Biller’s Mahogany Elephant, but my final choice would have to be Saunders’ Puppy. This story prompted my first post, and I remember reading it twice and feeling amazed by its language, its two main characters, and the way it subverted my expectations and associations. My post on this story has more than a few typos (as many do), and I hadn’t yet learned the narrowness of blog world, so my paragraphs are tyrannical, but I do think the story is worth readers’ attention. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was anthologized in the Best American Collection.
Also, friends have asked which post and discussion is my favorite. This is easy. The discussion of Wildwood was intense; with Yunior coming in to correct my assertions about the end of the story. Really, our different perspectives stemmed from the subtle line between the narrator and the writer. Often, the narrator makes decisions about how to describe a character’s emotions to make a point. I found the narrator’s description of the story’s last moment to be unsatisfactory, but Yunior argued the ending was suppose to be unsatisfactory, and hopeful, and elastic. Then, ended his last post with, “What I’m celebrating, if I’m celebrating anything at the end of that story, is that a VISION IS COMING! Which is my way of metaphorizing my belief that on its best days the world i inhabit and try to represent the life, never fails to keep offering us chances to awaken to ourselves.” Such a great, hopeful sentiment, it was worth repeating.
Speaking of comments, there have been some damn good ones. Sometimes, I feel like the comments outshine my posts, so they are worth their weight in.....megabytes? Particularly great ones are Lit Up’s response to “Homework”, Fitzcarraldo’s response to “1966,” and Pena’s response to “Wildwood.”
Now to what exists in common between these seven stories. I would say all of them deal with relationships, whether between siblings, parents and children, or lovers. They illuminate the struggle of relationships. Even the most functional pair in the batch, for example, Hester and Bartholomew, shield thoughts from one another. Bartholomew never tells his sister, the closes person to him in the world, how he has lost his faith; instead he sacrifices for her and finds religious ecstasy in her death.
Maybe sacrifice can be understood as one of the larger themes of all these stories. In If I Vanished, the main character has to sacrifice his girlfriend to grow and understand the importance of a question. Wildwood; the daughter’s desire for change, liberation, and freedom, come with the sacrifice of conformity, whether there is beauty in her potential for change or not, there is also tragedy in her false epiphany. Biller’s girlfriend has to make one of the most surprising and tragic sacrifices of the group: an unwanted one. She decides to sacrifice herself to a boyfriend, who no longer really cares for her. Her decision seems to stem from a desire for oblivion, similar to a gambler’s dingy, green-eyed desire to lose his money. Helen Simpson’s story is the exception. No one sacrifices anything in her story, except maybe the reader who loses his or her time. (I am kidding. The story wasn’t that bad; really it felt like the New Yorker’s editors failed to ask her to write a second draft…?) Back to sacrifices; in 1966, both brothers sacrifice their innocence (and possibly their lives) for the perverse, false machismo of war culture, a trap more harmful than any of the drugs taken in Jesus’ Son. And Saunders’ Puppy may have the funniest and most poetic sacrifice of all: an innocent little dog is killed so a wife can feel the intimacy of her husband’s fart-like wail, once again.
One could argue these stories taken together illuminate the sacrifices life demands from us all. I agree. So you all better give it up. New post, next week.