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This short story is very relevant to what we talked about with our fiction stories that we wrote for class. The majority of us wrote the ending in a way that informed the reader of what they were supposed to learn from it. In this story by Belle Boggs, she shows us how to end a story properly without a set conclusion paragraph. Instead she left the reader wondering and this is something we can take note of when writing our own work. It is okay to let a reader come to their own conclusion is what I learned from this story.

I really enjoyed this story, and enjoyed seeing all the different personalities of each of the characters and the different ways in which they all interacted with one another, especially once we are able to see more into their backstories the further the story progresses. Cutie’s determination to find her beloved silver is especially interesting and understandable considering her age; at such an old age, it is one of the few things she has left to be proud of and count on to always be there, and in an instant, it is all taken away from her. I thought that the narrator’s strong desire for solitude–a place of her own where she can just be alone–was very understandable as well, considering all that she has been through involving other people and how that could lead her to think that being on her own is the best thing. I also really enjoyed speculating on the future of the character Sammy; will she end up growing up to be just like the women in her family, or will she go on to really make something of herself? Belle Boggs really knows how to create a setting, a situation, and a group of characters–she knows how to make it all feel real. Overall, it was just a very fascinating story to read and see unfold; I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

I really liked this short story because of how it ended. As I began to read, I tried to put a picture in my head of how I believed this story would end, or how I thought it should end. The ending would be either nice and heartwarming with Ronnie telling Jeremey about the baby and them being happy, or with Jeremey getting upset about her keeping it from him and the story ending with them unhappy. Either way, she had to tell him; The story had to have a conclusion. I think this was a great ending becuase, it leaves the reader wondering, or really imagining themselves, how it will end. We leave off with the couple walking up to this party and everyone is smiling and happy just to see each other. This seems to be a typical family gathering for a cookout and Jeremey, after all he has been through, is really happy just to see familiar faces and to see the dogs. He doesn’t  need the news of his wife being pregnant to make him happy. So, I really like having this unknown ending for myself to put together an ending of what I think would have happened.

I think what I like best about this story is the lack of imagery as the story progresses. Yes, the first paragraph is mostly made up of description, but it becomes less and less until it’s nonexistent unless it’s being said in dialogue. So often, I know I find myself feeling like I have to include mountains of description, but this is a great example of how one can do so without breaking up a story’s flow, or giving to the plot through more of an engaged way rather than telling the reader what is going on.

Tallent’s story “No One’s A Mystery” shows how alluring it can be for an older man to show a young woman romantic attention. The narrator is infatuated with Jack, who is having an affair with the narrator behind his wife’s back. The narrator does not see the consequences in her or Jack’s actions, nor does she feel sorry for Jack’s wife, who has no clue that he is cheating on her with a younger woman. Although Jack might feel a romantic attachment to the narrator, he does not allow himself to believe that his relationship with the narrator will last. It seems as though Jack is comfortable staying with his wife and wishes to continue to “have his cake and eat it too” like a jerk. Jack likes the predictability of his marriage because, in that, he feels safe and secure that he will always be loved by someone.

In the first sentence of the story, the narrator states that the journal Jack gave to her for her birthday is “light as a dime.” (47) I see this as a representation for how Jack feels about his and the narrator’s relationship– light as a dime–not putting any weight or specific meaning into it. Rather, it appears that Jack is so calm about the situation because he has done this before with other women.

The ending conversation between the narrator and Jack shows each character’s viewpoint on the situation. The narrator is optimistic because of her naivety of the world and how relationships work. Jack shuts down the narrator’s optimistic viewpoint of the future due to his experience in the world and with relationships. This story shows the complexity of relationships between people when they are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Jack is intrigued with the narrator because of her youthful innocence, which makes him feel more important because of the way the narrator looks up to him. The narrator is infatuated with Jack because he makes her feel more like a woman. In this, each character plays off of the other by filling a void in which they lack– Jack’s need to feel important or even possibly have a fresh start, and the narrator’s want to have experience (romantically and sexually) in relationships.

In Elizabeth Tallent’s story, “No one’s a Mystery,” we find out right away that the man is with another women and his wife does not know about it. We find out so much information in such a little amount of time. The author does a really good job of creating a voice for each character. The women in the car is very worried and does not like things to be messy. When the man is more carefree and calm. This is different from their views of the future though. The women knows what she wants and has a plan whereas the man is worried that she is going to leave him. It is interesting to see that contrast and how you would think they would be switched views. Reading this it makes you feel bad for the wife of the man, because she has no clue what her husband has been doing.

I found Kristin Valdez Quade’s “Mojave Rats” very interesting- the main character, Monica, in particular. Throughout the short story Monica makes many comments and has many thoughts about how much better she is than those around her; how much more sophisticated and of better breeding (only her, she never really goes into much detail about her family being any better). On page 32 she says “The place caught people like trash in a wire fence, damaged, discarded people blown out of the bright tree-lined towns of America, held here until the wind came up. Mojave rats, Elliot called them, these denizens of the dust.” Later on this page there is talk of how “determined that people understand she wasn’t like them… She told herself again and again that her time at Shady Lanes was only prelude to her real life…” and these, along with several other lines in this short story, showcase Monica’s character as being extremely condescending and arrogant.
There was also the subject of Monica’s “enormity of disloyalty to Elliot” (pg. 49) and the strained relationship between her and the older daughter, Cordelia. “For all his flaws, Peter would never have found himself in Elliot’s position,…” though she later attempts to make amends for this thought, it was her immediate response to her situation. Peter, though abusive and overbearing, would never have dragged her to a place like Shady Lanes, a place our main character so obviously loathes. There was also the instance that she handed over her prized possession-the three hundred dollar dress- to Amanda, despite having just told Cordelia, her own daughter, moments before, that it should have been hers one day. Again, she feels guilt for her actions and thoughts, but it seems her first response to an uncomfortable situation is self-preservation and pride, despite being a mother and wife with a second chance at a loving husband and family.
The strain on this Mother-daughter relationship is also very present on page 33, when Cordelia is too close to the road as a truck barrels past. When Monica yanks her oldest daughter by the arm, she says “‘Don’t you ever-“ she started, not caring how much she hurt Cordelia-glad to hurt her, even-‘“. When I read this sentence for the first time, I felt confused; surely she meant glad to hurt her because she was putting herself in danger? But as I finished the story and read Monica’s conclusions about Cordelia, or, more accurately, her projections of what the little girl would be, it did not seem such a selfless, motherly thought. Monica recognizes that her daughter is now an outsider in the family, that “Monica herself had put her there,..” (pg. 56) but in the last sentence makes a statement that rings with bitterness to me; “…and she wouldn’t even notice that she was finally warm.” (pg. 57) Despite the conclusions she had only just come to about the misfortune of her daughter’s circumstances, she still finds fault with her. With everyone, but Monica herself. For all of the looking down and judging that she does on the rest of Shady Lanes, the “Mojave rats, and even her own daughter, it seems to me that the only real rat in this short story is Monica herself.

Throughout the short story Mojave Rats, I felt vibes of discontentment. The main protagonist, Monica, grapples with many issues; ranging from caring for her family in a new and unsatisfactory place to her conflicted feelings toward her current life and her eldest daughter. She is struggling with the path her life has taken.

No longer the wife of a rich and sophisticated but abusive husband, she battles with who she was and what she’s lost. She had status and material possessions–a life she dreamt for herself , when with him. Without him, she is no longer abused and belittled. She is a woman with two children, a love for literature, no degree and a PhD earning husband. Seems satisfactory, right? To Monica, she is struggling as she was before her ex-husband. She has nothing to show for her dedication and work. She loves her children and adores her husband. This earns her no status, no financial security. While her husband is attempting to earn his degree, funding has dried up and progress is hard to come by. She is miserable and feels stuck. Adding to this, is  her contention with her eldest daughter. Within her family unit there is the baby, Elliot and herself. There is also her eldest daughter Cordelia. Sharp with her wit and tongue, as well as very observant, Cordelia  strains the comfortability Monica has with herself. As the last lingering piece of a puzzle Monica has already rid herself of, Cordelia is a constant reminder of the darker days in her life. She does not fit well in her new puzzle.

How do you raise your child knowing you will become more distant and resentful towards each other? How do you become satisfied with a life you never wanted to live? Are you selfish? Are you mean? Are you projecting complex feelings and expectations onto others– writing their fates before they can begin to live? Monica asks herself these questions and doesn’t have an answer. She is conflicted and that confliction is disconcerting and resonant to the reader.

 

This was one of my favorite stories we have read so far. I loved that it felt so simple, but had so much going on and referenced the past, present, and future all within three pages. I really loved Tallen’s use of repetition and parallel structure as devices of delay in this story. There is also the presence of a lot of contrasts, such as his wife driving exactly 55 miles per hour while he typically does 80. There is a great contrast shown between the narrator and Jack’s visions for the future which makes sense since in situations like this one person is much more attached than the other. I just thought it was interesting to get an inside look at what it is like to be in the husband and mistress’ shoes instead of the wife who is being cheated on.

I enjoyed reading Belle Boggs, “Good News for a Hard Time” because it was an intriguing story with lots of detail and new perspectives. Although I’ve never been in the position of the narrator, I was able to feel how she was feeling because it was relatable. The author’s use of detail made it easy to envision all of the settings and surroundings. Her detail also made it easy to envision the characters and their attitudes. For example it was easy to picture the characters like skinny or the people living in the neighborhood. The story contains a running problem of the narrator having to tell her husband that she is pregnant and this issue is never resolved. While reading the story I felt myself distressed by the stress the narrator was feeling. The narrator is also dealing with the issue of her husband having his arm amputated and getting situated with his new lifestyle. This story contained many little background stories inside of it. For instance the story about Ronnie’s mother running off to hollywood or the story about Ronnie dropping out of college. In such a short story, the reader is able to understand very complicated things about the narrators life.

I really liked this story because I found it to be very relatable even though it is fictional. Myself, as the reader, can definitely relate to being in a relationship with someone of a completely opposite personality and knowing it isn’t going to work out. Another thing I found interesting was the way the author laid out Jack’s wife, without ever actually saying it she showed the reader that the wife was boring and safe; always driving the speed limit, making meatloaf for dinner, etc. Tallent sneakily hints things about the characters through creative word choice and dialogue.

I really liked how this story included emotionally complicated/tough situations that many people in the real world go through and can relate to. For example, Ronnie (the main character in this story) must learn to cope with her husband, who is recovering from losing a limb in the line of duty. In addition, Ronnie struggles with being unhappy in her marriage, ending up just like her mother (marrying someone because it was the right thing to do and ultimately ending up being stuck on the reservation) and with her unexpected and untimely pregnancy. Boggs develops a clear voice throughout this story and uses lots of imagery to help establish the setting. The narrator uses this imagery as a metaphor for her loneliness as well as her yearning for freedom from the conformities of the life she is living.

I thought the author did a really great job of establishing a clear picture right at the beginning. You automatically acquire some understanding of the struggles this family are going through. The author also gave each character a clear voice. You could really feel Monica’s internal struggles, Cordelia’s anger and resentment, and Elliot’s love for his family. I thought the scenes surrounding the dress were very interesting because the dress held so much of Monica’s past. It was a symbol of so many emotions and relationships that were at once important to her. She realized that it was time to let it all go. I assumed she was going to give her dress to Cordelia, but instead she gave it to Amanda because she knew Amanda’s family had less of a chance for a successful future than her own did. The fact that she then worries and somewhat regrets this decision shows so much depth to her character that the reader didn’t quite get before. I really enjoyed this story!

I really like this story and how the characters’ amount of life experience (and lack thereof) is demonstrated in the way they interact with one another. Jack, who is older, has a more realistic outlook on the future than the narrator, understanding that certain things, especially love, don’t last forever and don’t always turn out the way you want: “In two years you’ll write, ‘I wonder what that old guy’s name was, the one with the curly hair and the filthy dirty pickup truck and time on his hands.'” The narrator, on the other hand, is a young girl in love, and so has a much more idealistic plan for the future: “In two years I’ll write, ‘Jack should be home by now. Little Jack is hungry for his supper. He said his first word today besides “Mama” and “Papa.”‘” While they may both hope for their fairy tale happily ever after, at least one of them is being realistic about the fact that it may not ever happen. They are both at completely different stages in life and so see and understand the world in completely different ways. It may even help the reader to come to a similar understanding about “idealism vs. realism” or “love vs. infatuation” as well, having been shown more than one perspective on the topic.

I really enjoyed the detail that went into describing the relationship between the seemingly single father and his children.  I was able to get the sense of how much the father cared for them and enjoyed being a dad with all the dad corniness that comes with it.  I think the author did a really good job at characterizing the dad’s simple enjoyment of his children by the use of bad dad jokes sprinkled throughout the story, and the listing of normal, everyday activities.  The everyday activities bring the story to life because it provides to us, the reader, an insight and different perspective to actions that we may take for granted in a way because they seem so common and every day to us.  It is these common everyday interactions of taking a drive, of eating out for lunch, killing time with jokes that aren’t necessarily funny, of sibling bicker, of toughing out a storm together in sleeping bags that help turn something simple into something heartwarming and real.

Write a short story (of three or so double-spaced pages) in which one of the characters below shows up and changes the lives of those he or she encounters. Place the story in the Fiction Exercise 1 folder on Google Drive. Don’t forget that your document should be named in this manner: YourName.CRWR106.FictionEx1.docx. Also, don’t forget this (from the syllabus): Assignments that suggest a lack of substantial effort and those plagued by persistent or egregious errors will be returned for revision and proofreading.

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I personally liked this story because I felt like I could relate to it in a way because we go to an all-girls school. On this day every year all of the boys in the school, except certain boys, skip school and go hunting because it is the beginning of hunting season. The story’s narrator talks about the school’s campus just having a softer, lighter feeling, and I can see how that would happen. The story is written in third-person omniscient, which means the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters in the story. I liked reading it that way because we can get to know what everybody is feeling and doing, and it’s not just from one perspective. We can see different people’s struggles like ones we don’t usually think about like the secretary or the teacher. There is really no story line other than the girl goes to school and she can hear the gunshots from the boys hunting. Rather than the story having one large problem, it has many little issues from all different people. The story kind of ends leaving you wondering if there was more to it. But it made you think about the deer in the end who comes onto the school campus but won’t realize that it is safe there until it is too late.

Boggs’ “Deer Season” was very interesting to read. I really enjoyed the shift of perspective throughout; to me it had a sense of stream of consciousness, but with more direction. The examination of a single point in time through the different lenses was both interesting and enlightening. The descriptions and narrative made me feel like I had an understanding of the school at large, with a small glimpse at a few people who weren’t even a good sample of the school’s population. With every shift in perspective, there was a clear shift in voice, which made me believe there was a new narrator.

            I found the continual air of mystery in Kirstin Valdez Quade’s “Nemecia” very interesting. From the beginning to the end of this short story, its peculiarity never wavers. Throughout the story, we come to understand (or not) Nemecia through the main protagonist’s interactions with her and information surrounding her. As the protagonist and Nemecia grow, so does the steepness of their oddities. At first, there are intense and polar interactions between the two in which the line between love and hate, of tragedy and trauma, is blurred. This is followed by more subdued but just as confusing and eccentric relations — where one refuses to acknowledge the other or small slights to one another occur. Through all of these interactions, ranging from the ritual scarification of the protagonist’s cheek to Nemecia’s refusal to accept a doll that the protagonist thought symbolized their childhood, the protagonist begins to understand herself within and without the context of Nemecia.

‘Who am I?’ the protagonist seems to ponder throughout this whole piece. Is she envious and filled with rage at her mother’s unconditional and extravagant love for her orphaned cousin– her surrogate sister? Or is she the pitying and saddened cousin who does not know how to manage grief and mystery and the strange fits of her traumatized relative?  Better yet, is she a child who grows up in a world of unknowns, who is marred and remolded, who is selfish and loving and trying?

She is all three.

To grow up is a complicated and strenuous endeavor. To do so within the confines and constraints imposed by another individual creates even more nuances within its complexity. To be a child who has a perspective on that individual as terrifying and exhilarating, as undeserving and befuddling, can make one angry and confused. To feel left out or less loved  in your own home by your family can make one deeply saddened and equally enraged. To feel continually slighted and await adoration or hate or something can be nerve-wracking.  To try to understand one’s self within these contexts, to try to understand others and love and grief,  is to understand that life is filled with uncertainties.  Many times ambivalence blankets life and we can only try.

 

I adored Boggs’ use of point of view in this short story. I have never read anything where each paragraph is being written from a different character’s point of view, and I think that because this story was short, it worked beautifully and wasn’t overwhelming. By giving the perspectives of the people left behind on opening day, Boggs is showing how the men who left affect the lives of each and every person in the school. The part that really stood out the most to me was the last paragraph where we get to see the events of the day through a young deer’s eyes. This stood out so much because it is fairly unusual to see this being done, and especially only over a single paragraph. I feel as though I got a massive amount of information out of a four-page story, which is very impressive to me, and shows the talent Boggs possesses to portray a series of events in a brief, yet effective manner.

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