Monthly Archives: July 2006

Derek Gour, "Schrodinger’s Bastard"

He’s got an enlarged testicle and random bursts of x-ray vision, and somehow it’s her fault?

(from Fiction Warehouse)

Lizzie: “The cat is in a box, and he’s either dead or alive, but nobody knows which until they look inside the box. Until he’s observed, the cat is trapped in a quantum purgatory, unable to move on.”

Dylan: “You could leave him there for a couple weeks. Then you’d know for sure.”

Dylan’s strange ailments are merely metaphorical symptoms for his relationship with the possesive and oddly flighty Lillie. Is it drawn broadly? Oh yes, but it’s funny and unpredictable, too. You can read it here.

David Means, “Sault Ste. Marie”

Petty criminals go on a spree.

(from The O. Henry Prize Stories 2006)

With all the sex and odd violence and pills and most petty crimes — and the word “drifter” — this story had a lot in common with The Hold Steady oeuvre. Compared to Craig Finn’s lyrics, David Means’ sentences are necessarily more information-giving, more blunt. But the mood is similar, one of hope and horror and fuck-all. Cool story.

I read this in the Nethers.

Thomas Pynchon, “The Small Rain”

The army guys are called in to collect corpses after the hurricane.

(from Slow Learner: Early Stories)

I had a hard time following this one. The themes were clear and the sentences were smart and unmuddied. But between games of kub, right draw and wise or otherwises, I found myself picking this story up so sporadically as to make a clear vision of the plot improbable. But I did see some of that youthful eh Pynchon alluded to in his intro. And since this was the first story in the collection, I believe it was his intention to put his worst foot forward. I’ve made him out to be a self-defeating jackass. How wrong am I?

I read this in the Nethers.

Thomas Pynchon, “Entropy”

Over-educated collegiate types and other loveable characters beat back change with a party that just won’t end. But change is coming.

(from Slow Learner: Early Stories)

“Downstairs, Meatball Mulligan’s lease-breaking party was moving into its 40th hour.”

I guess this is about a bunch of last hurrahs balled up into one big last hurrah. But it’s also just a complicated and funny series of non-intertwining interactions. Pynchon introduces character after character and tells you only what you need to know about them. The rest you figure out from interactions and background chatter. It can be a bit confusing, but in a comfortable way. There is nothing he’s withholding by accident.

This collection, I believe, contains the only Pynchon five stories out there. So when he says “Early Stories,” he’s putting emphasis on the “Early.” In fact, he basically disavows them and his former self in the lengthy intro/apology/page-filler.
“You may already know what a blow to the it can be to have to read over anything you wrote 20 years ago, even cancelled checks. My first reaction, rereading these stories, was oh my God, accompanied by physical symptoms we shouldn’t dwell upon.” Translation: I was young. These stories I’m expecting you to read made me barf, but hear you go anyway. It’s true there was something intangibly immature about “Entropy,” maybe that its themes were overstated, but word to word and line to line, this story killed. An excellent, thought-provoking read by a future star. From there Pynchon was only heading up, up. And away.

I read this in the Nethers.