Archive | February, 2014

“Rose Wept,” by William Trevor

14 Feb

After the last two stories under discussion, this one may seem downright conventional, and yet, its shape is quite distinctive. Let’s try to get to the bottom of this rather understated, curiously affecting story, by discussing the following questions.

Why do you suppose the author chose to tell the story from Rose’s point of view? How would it have been a different story from Mr. Bouverie’s point of view, or his wife’s, the lover’s?

Speaking of point of view, how would you describe the narrative voice? The point of view is certainly Rose’s, but the narrator looking over her shoulder seems to be another presence entirely.

The conflict, of course, is the ongoing affair, but most of the story barely confronts this painful happening. Why should the author concern himself with the coffee house, Rose’s house, and the tutor room, instead of the bedroom where the real action is taking place?

Describe the “weave” pattern. What are the threads? How do they “tie” together?

Much of this story’s power, or charm at least, rests on allusions. Can you find any famous allusions here?

How does the final paragraph justify the rest of the story, link all the various aspects together?

“Keith,” by Ron Carlson

13 Feb

Here we have a story that combines–to unusual effect–lightness of tone and heart-wrenching pathos. It’s quite funny throughout and, finally, sad as hell. Taken in the context of our textbook chapter on revision, please consider the following questions.

How does “chemistry” function in this story, both metaphorically and practically? To put it another way, how would the story change if they’d met in, say, history, or English, or whatever? Surely any of those other classes might assign students to be partners.

How has the author prepared us for Barbara, against most common sense, actually going out with Keith in the first place? Why does she do it?

Do you feel sorry for Brian? Why or why not?

What role does Trish play? Why is she vital to the story? (Or is she?)

Usually stories are either funny or sad. Not too many of them are both. Why is this, and how has the author managed to have it both ways in this story?

Look at the earlier draft of “Keith” in your text, and read the penultimate section. In the earlier version it takes place while Keith is washing his truck. The final version is set in the airport. Why did Carlson make this change?

“Father Returns from the Mountain,” by Luis Alberto Urrea

12 Feb

Here we have a lyrical, genre-blending story/essay/prose poem. A lot going on here, formally. And underneath it all rests an ancient story about a son losing his father. Consider the questions below.

Having just read Rick Moody’s “Boys,” we can’t help but see some similarities, as well as important differences. Please compare these two stories.

Surely we have a conflict here. Father has died, and the son is shocked, wounded, and must deal with the death, both physically, intellectually, and spiritually. But is there a crisis, or climax? If so, identify it.

How does the metaphor of truth being a broken mirror work for this story? What is its message?

In your opinion, did the writer get away with turning his father into a ghost? What’s your criteria for making this judgement.

Is this more a story, poem, or essay? Surely it blends all three, but does one genre carry most of the weight?

“Reply All,” by Robin Hemley

11 Feb

This story rests on what may be the best gimmick I’ve ever come across. I wish I’d thought of it first, but had I I doubt I’d have taken such perfect advantage of it. At any rate, it’s a hoot and well worth discussing in terms of point of view. Please respond to these discussion questions below, or with new questions or comments.

If this story follows a traditional plot, which email represents the conflict, the crisis, and the resolution?

How is pace controlled? Or to put it another way, how does the author delay the crisis while adding to the suspense and anticipation?

Along those same lines, how does the author give the sense of movement, that we’re going somewhere throughout the story and not just repeating the same joke over and over?

Two characters are attacked in the early part of this story. How well do they defend themselves?

What role do the minor characters play?

Function of Mikey’s “I’m” email?

In what ways is Mikey an unreliable “narrator”? What do you make of his apology?

Finally, what is “twee” and is Mikey and “his paramour” it?

“Boys,” by Rick Moody

9 Feb

One needn’t read too far into “Boys” to see why it would appear in a class devoted to the formal aspects of fiction. And yet, a fairly traditional story–coming of age–emerges from the technical smoke and mirrors here. Please consider the following questions and discuss.

What’s the most apparent–to you–formal oddity of this story? How does this unusual feature affect the basic narrative? What’s its narrative function?

Moody likes to alter prose rhythm by varying sentence lengths and patterns. He writes longer sentences than most contemporary American writers. Find a long sentence, dissect it, and tell us what you think.

At what point do the twins start to distinguish themselves from one another? Can you briefly describe the basic difference between the two?

What “happens” in the story? Try to pinpoint each moment of change. Does the story have a conventional “plot”? If not, how would you describe the shape?