LITERATURE: Glimmer Train #54 – Story

Hmmph.  I just got done reading a 38-page story in this issue that made me reconsider some things I thought I knew and practiced in just the last couple of days.

Creed of Whispers by Joseph Flanagan is, oddly enough, set in New England of the 1880s.  It starts and ends at the funeral of a rather odd local character, with the main story centering around one of the mourners, a young single woman who we find had been raped, had an abortion, and along with her mother–whose husband has abandoned them–maintain some measure of social status as best they can amid the lack of income and wealth of disgrace.  It’s rather well written, and it does have a very interesting story line with such activity and drama, and there is a relationship between the young woman and the recently deceased that somehow offers hope. 

The 38-pager is a story by Andre Dubus III called Marla.  The protagonist is a 29 year old single woman who might best be described as ordinary to dumpy with a job as a bank teller and no circle of friends beyond her co-workers.  No boyfriend either, and still a virgin.  She starts dating a customer, moves in with him, and we follow the relationship through the natural progression from elation to revelation.  After living with him a while, she starts seeing all the things that she doesn’t like and realizes that she probably has given up her life to put up with something just because she doesn’t want to be lonely. 

Marla is well written in voice, and yet it seemed to be an awful lot of telling for a story where the main thrust is the emotions of a relationship.  We’re constantly told of how Marla feels.  We’re reminded continually of her low self-esteem.  The other characters are defined a bit by dialogue, but mostly by what the third person narrator tells us they’re like.  I was a bit surprised at the quality of the story–though it reads easily enough–upon seeing Dubus III’s credits.

But what do I know.

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