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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

Monday, May 29, 2017

The good and the not so good aspects of the promsing work of Semanta Schweblin

Semanta Schweblin's story in current New Yorker, The Size of Things, reminds me of her well-received novel (Fever Dream), for better and for worse. First, the for better: in both works Schweblin shows that she really knows how to establish a creepy and mysterious scenario, full of innuendo and hints of strange and dark forces at work. Briefly, her novel is about a woman renting a summer house that appears to be haunted by the specter of a child; the novel is narrated as a series of inquiries and responses, an interior dialog between the woman and child, though both are dead or near death (I may have details slightly wrong in my recollection; see Schweblin under the index for this blog for my initial impressions while reading Fever Dreams). The current story is about a young man, who's come into a large inheritance, but who lives with his mother and is considered by the entire community to be odd in some way. The narrator, owner of a toy shop, notices the young man staring into the shop window; the man buys a series of airplane models, though he resists engagement in any discussion about his apparent "hobby." Then he shows up one day at closing time and asks if he can stay overnight in the store; the narrator obliges, and the next day finds the items on display rearranged by color sequence - confusing at first, but immediately enticing to potential customers, Over time, the man sets up residence in the store - and then continues the re-arrangements, ultimately detrimental to business, and declines to leave (saying curtly that it would be best if he stayed at the store - obvious Bartleby reference there). OK, so again SS does a great job establishing a story - but then - here's the "for worse" - she doesn't really seem to know what to do w/ her premise. The man gradually withdraws from social interactions and mutters something about wishing people would stop hitting him - and then, ta da, his mother shows up and grabs him by the arm and brings him home with her, the end. Really? What's the point? A long journey toward not much of an ending. Compare this with the beautiful, mournful conclusion to Bartleby, to give just the obvious point of comparison. I know little about SS and suppose she is a young (Argentine?) writer and I will say she definitely shows a lot of potential but in my view doesn't bring this story over the top.

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