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“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?

“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?