Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Monday, 27 April 2009

"Alaska Quarterly Review" (2009)

This issue ( Vol 26 No.1 & 2, 2009) has essays, poems and drama, but I'll focus on the 13 stories to see where they get their stamina from, how repetition or lists prolong the pieces, and whether they depend on suspense. Page lengths are in brackets.

  • "Vestigal Horns" (21) - Harry doesn't likes the goats. Dani does. The goats feature in how the Harry-Dani relationship (which adds suspense) pans out.
  • "Ampulex Compressa" (15) - Suspense is provided by the issue of whether Boy will leave. Smiley the cockroach keeps appearing. The 2 parallel relationships keep the narrative going
  • "Read us - the lists of the dead" (11) - Long flashbacks reveal that Gregory has a past. What might he do next? Narrative sustained by following Gregory at work
  • "One person per life" (13) - Status of main protagonists becomes clear, and then the issue is whether they'll have a child. In the foreground is a visit with relatives to an exhibition
  • "Domestica" (10) - A narrative about prospective buyers visiting a house, punctuated by nostalgic, drifting descriptive lists with a somewhat tacked-on ending.
  • "Seven Reasons" (8) - 7 headed sections ("Rage", "Regret", etc), each section discussing the heading before continuing the narrative about a man on the railroad
  • "Still we are here" (11) - A gap of years between the 2 main sections. The 2nd narrative bounces between the heart (found in the road) and the lost girl. These come together at the end
  • "An Eye for Alicia" (16) - A narrative that follows Alicia, with an interrupting narrator
  • "Leaving Cloud Drive" (8) - A drunk wife's day. A coyote reappears every so often (with various symbolic import) and there are flashbacks
  • "Two Birds" (13) - the straightest of the stories. Jack gets ill, gets better
  • "Scooter's Story" (8) - straight. A party, the suspense build around whether the veteran will tell the story, and Rylands promptings.
  • "Nectarine Pie" (8) - straight. A car ride narrative
  • "Us kids" (5) - straight. Another car ride narrative

Except perhaps for "An Eye for Alicia" (maybe "Two Birds" too) I liked all of these pieces. 4 of the stories feature old people. The most common structure (for these stories, and many stories elsewhere) is for there to be a single main story-line. Flashbacks, the narrator, or a symbolically-adaptable object repeatedly punctuate the narrative. The main story-line may have suspense, but a resolution can also be achieved by having the story-line and the cause of interruptions coming together at the end.

No comments:

Post a Comment