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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Story in Harper's and its possible relation to another piece in the magazine

Haven't read Harper's in a while, picked up a copy in the airport, still impressed with the Harper's index and especially with the short features - book excerpt, fiction, poetry, artwork - at the front of the book. Read some in flight and story from front-of-book last night, My Diagnosis, by Jeremy Davies, an author I haven't read before. Though not entirely blown away by the story - from (as we learn well into the piece) a first-person female narrator who has received a diagnosis of an illness that she cannot or will not name and that, she believes, only those suffering from this illness (mental? physical?) cannot comprehend, so why even try to explain it or how she feels? Story involves her ongoing phone dialogue with a group loosely called her mother's friends, who keep asking about her condition, and she refuses to divulge anything - we see over the course of this back-and-forth that she has been a disappointment to her mother, because of her lack of achievement (maybe linked to her diagnosis?), esp compared w/ the success of the children of her mother's friends. Narrator tries to justify her life by explaining that it only because of her great discipline that she has avoided certain accomplishments: takes discipline to not learn to play the violin, e.g. Over course of story, although mother does not appear, we learn, if narrator is to be believed, that mother is no prize herself. The story is great as a swift portrait but it's quite constricted and doesn't develop much beyond its established premise - still, Davies does create an unusual and successful character sketch. Interesting in particular set against another front-of-the-book piece, part of an oral history, in which a well-known artist (Judson, if I remember correctly) describes employment of his youth as friend and caretaker for a woman with bipolar disorder or maybe schizophrenia. She could be the narrator of Davies's story, when you think about it.

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