Another week, another set. As I was reading these short stories, I was quite intrigued. Although many of the previous stories were interesting and explored a variety of topics, this set reflected extremely different relationships. There’s a sibling rivalry story; I don’t recall any of the other stories discussing siblings in this much depth. Then there’s an entire story about the relationship to a person through possession of property. And finally, a story about hero worship.
The first story is called May We Be Forgiven, by A. M. Homes. In this story, there is the narrator… and there’s his brother, George. Immediately, the narrator spells out his hate for George: “Geode I called him — like a sedimentary rock.” Unless George is a lazy ass, I would consider this nickname the narrator’s way of letting the reader know he dislikes his brother. It turns out the name is perfect for the opening scene… since George isn’t helping clear his wife’s table of dinner. BTdubs… we never learn the narrator’s name. Perhaps he doesn’t feel he is important enough to name because of the circumstances.
What are those circumstances, you ask? Well… the narrator basically bones George’s wife. wtf, you say? My thoughts exactly! But I think Jane (George’s wife) has made a habit of cheating on George..
Here’s what happens. During the opening scene, Jane randomly kisses the narrator: “the kiss was serious, wet, full of desire. It was terrifying and unexpected…. Hard… I thought of my brother fucking his wife — constantly.” OK. First off, she totally blue-balled him. I can understand thinking about her all the time… you obviously want her to finish the job. But, THINKING of your BROTHER f@#$%ing her?!?! Come on… that’s a little gross. I would never want to imagine my brother bare-ass naked, and inside of a woman I lust after.
The narrator on the other hand seems to do it for some time. So long, in fact, that his fantasies get us to the next scene in the story. George has run a red light and killed 3 people, severely injuring a 4th.. sober. This scene is a little off-putting. I’m not sure how to react to anyone, because everyone is acting so blase`. George keeps asking why he should need a lawyer and acts like a baby, which seems to be normal for him; his wife acts as though nothing has happened, and the narrator is describing this to us.. The only person who reacts as she should is Claire, the narrator’s wife. She IS a lawyer, so she gives lawyer-ly advice.
But there is something deeper happening. First time I noticed: “he turned on her, he pinned her with his body and bit her again and again, breaking the skin in several places.” Now, this isn’t the sexy-time of vampires. This is a savage attack, breaking into something raw. George obviously has some issues. It could’ve been the car accident, but I think the accident is the reaction to a stimulus.
Fast forward a little bit… the narrator is in bed with Jane. George has found his way home from the hospital, and finds them:
George then proceeds to smash his wife in the head with a lamp… putting her into a coma. O.o
Why didn’t he also attack his brother? THAT was my question. Why only the wife?? Then the son gave it away: ” ‘Did he walk in on you?’ ” Like his mother has had men over before. Like George has found Jane with another man before. At least this is my assumption.
As I said, this was an off-putting story. I’m glad that it was, because it’s an interesting feeling that I’m not used to..
The next story is called From the Desk of Daniel Varsky, by Nicole Krauss. The narrator is a poet (the gender of whom we are not informed) who has recently endured a break up. After trudging through the details of how the narrator is coping, we get to the main story. There’s this other poet. He’s Chilean. His name is Daniel Varsky. Daniel is going to “lend” his furniture to the narrator.. he’s going back to Chile and needs someone to “look” after his property.
Okay, so why does this matter? This furniture matters because each piece has a story of Daniel’s adventures, or the story of a famous poet (who means more to the people in the story than I thought a poet could mean…):
Suddenly I felt awash in gratitude to their owner, as if he were handing down to me not just some wood and upholstery but the chance at a new life, leaving it up to me to rise to the occassion.
I guess between the break up and the meaning behind the furniture, the narrator is moved.
Daniel and the narrator continue to discuss poetry. It’s quite clear to the reader that these two people have a lot in common.. so you think the typical “oh man. I call it. I call that these two hook up and fall in love.” You are so convinced in your ship that when the narrator and Daniel do kiss you are SO excited that you, as the reader, were correct. But WAIT:
if we were kissing then we couldn’t talk, and the more we talked, the more there was to say. The kiss was just a note of punctuation in our long conversation, a parenthetical remark made in order to assure each other of a deeply felt agreement, a mutual offer of companionship, which is much more rare than sexual passion or even love.
So the jist of all this jazz is…
This is what they attempted
this is how they justified it
And this is how it really was
Note: The narrator isn’t stated to be male or female (or even white). I only chose pictures that displayed the reaction I wanted.
The story continues to describe the narrator’s life after this night, and even includes what happens to Daniel. I don’t think the connection that Daniel and the narrator shared would have entitled a lifetime of interactions (in fact that one night is all they had). However, Daniel left his furniture with the narrator, and said he may return for it. This is open-ended, and so, left the narrator connected for the rest of Daniel’s life.
The last story in this set is called The King of Sentences, by Jonathan Lethem. THIS. IS. THE. MOST. BIZARRE. STORY. I’VE. EVER. READ. That’s probably a lie… but that was my reaction.
NOTHING in this story matters. Nothing. These two kids are worse than grammar nazis. At least grammar nazis don’t have irrational behavior. In fact, these kids… they need to take the following class:
Here is how THESE kids are irrational. First, they scorn book buyers. That’s not as irrational. I worked at a bookstore myself… and those customers, LET ME TELL YOU. But these kids don’t scorn book buyers for the same reasons I did. They scorn these customers because they don’t appreciate “astonishing” sentences. You can tell the narrator does though… because the whole story is written with these sentences. What “astonishing” sentences MEANS… I can’t even tell you. But these kids are obsessed. They even say aloud these types of sentences when having sex…. to finish each other off. That’s irrational behavior number 2. Irrational behavior number 3 is STALKING a man you’ve deemed the King of Sentences. Number 4 is following him to a hotel room and YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW HIM AND THE COP WARNED YOU. Number 5 is offering to take off your clothes for him. Number 6 is doing it when he asks. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!?!
At this point in the story I realize that the King is their idol, and there are a lot of worse idols for kids to have. But still. Who does this? I don’t know anyone, do you? Then, when the King walks out on them because he thinks they are as crazy as I do, the narrator says “Clea and I waited an appropriate interval, then turned and clung to each other in a kind of rapture. Understanding, abruptly and at last, just what it takes to be King. How much, in the end, it actually costs.” I don’t even know what this means. If you have any ideas, PLEASE let me know. I’ve resolved to think that it takes more than one disappointment for these kids to realize their idol isn’t who they thought he was…