Donna Tartt, "The Ambush"

The only game Timmy likes to play is the daily recreation of his father’s death in Vietnam.

(from Tin House, vol. 7, #2)

Most of this story is intriguing and memorable. I loved the scenes of a battlefield on repeat. It’s crazy and morbid and probably exactly what a kid might do. And our narrator seems comfortably intoxicated by her new friend’s rebellious attitude and leadership. This story, more often than not, has an authentic knack for getting into kids’ heads. The ending didn’t ring as true, but by then the hooks were already in me and I was willing to look the other way.
Here‘s some kinda homepage for Donna Tart. Here‘s a link to the story. Looks like it was published in the Guardian (UK), before it was published in Tin House‘s All Apologies issue, which I purchased even though there’s a clown on the cover. It’s a hobo clown, but a clown nontheless. I’m always putting another book on top of it.

Neutral Milk Hotel, “Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone”

One thought on “Donna Tartt, "The Ambush"

  1. Stephanie

    I recently read “The Ambush” in Best American Short Stories 2006 and am trying to dissect it to really see the stories merits–it’s a seemingly simple story but has a gracefulness and depth that I am impressed by–

    the details, metaphor of war, Vietnam: the kids looking at each other like “two animals” (like young, soldiers, strangers going to war; what becomes the “war-torn” yard; the enemy mind-set that evolves from war (Evie became bold and they both grew to view Rose & Gali as enemies, Gali’s smile angered Evie); the tall weeds of the yard and the camellia bushes deep, deep, cover” like a jungle; Evie imagining Tim saw “white smoke, incoming helicopters” like a soldier who’s returned from war.

    the prejudice of Evie’s family was also interesting and then Gali blames Evie for everything and calls her a “little goyische girl”–tells her she’s no good–when Evie’s family has been basically saying that about Gali–could that relate to the prejudice American troops had for the Vietnamese they were fighting and harken a bit to the reaction American troops received when they returned home?

    As far as the end what didn’t ring true? That she only cut her hand on a dish? That surprised me a bit but I thought it was kind of clever that there’s all this blood and pandemonium–and she has not cracked her head open or broken anything–and she’s ok after “the ambush” while her son is dead–

    I with you on clowns–thanks this seem like a great blog–just stumbled on it this morning–


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