LITERATURE: Ploughshares: Parallel Plots

In the next to last story I’m reading in this issue, Lady of The Wild Beasts by Debra Spark, the narrative structure is a case of braiding two stories together.  The opening story is of a man in an office building at a job he dislikes (surprise!) writing the story of twin sisters, one of whom was a schizophrenic cartoonist, very artsy and free and dead; the other a sort of prim and matronly type who appears to be rather self-centered and I’d say a bit resentful. 

One of the problems I found here was the difficulty in understanding that this was indeed two separate stories set in different times and one character in the first is supposedly doing research and actually writing the second.  This was figured out within a couple of pages, but the author (Spark) made it even more difficult by throwing a lot of extraneous characters into each story that made it rather confusing and a lot more trouble than it needed to be. 

The writing was good, the stories were okay, but the first one sort of goes nowhere when the man’s boss fires him and he simply continues writing the story on his own and there is no real conflict nor resolution to this one.  The other story which follows the alive twin to a friend’s house where the friend isn’t home but a neighbor stays with her and she has to walk a dog that she doesn’t like, along with sequences of backstory on the dead sister tossed in (and, more characters) just has her facing the fact that her sister is dead and may have killed her best friend as well.  Nothing really moving in character study, maybe a bit of a twist on the revelation of a possible murder, but without ever returning to story #1, I see no resolution or dramatic closure. 

It’s a difficult maneuver to carry off, taking skill as well as very careful planning to achieve clarity and suit purpose.  With the sudden dropping of the first story without conclusion, that of the writer covering the second story of the twins, I found it a bit sloppy in that respect. 

One last one to go and I’m back to Aristotle and perhaps I’ll let the lit journals pile up one more quarterly’s worth and move to a short story collection by Roxana Robinson, A Perfect Stranger

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1 Response to LITERATURE: Ploughshares: Parallel Plots

  1. Mark says:

    You are truly incredible. Read on. Dissect every tract into trigonometry pieces. Know what I think? The masters like Steinbeck of course edited themselves into structure suited to purpose, but so much easier when your ultimate goal is expressing something you want to say. 🙂

    However, word mechanics will never be out of a job.

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