Marlin Barton, "Into Silence"

A deaf woman gets a strange taste of freedom when a WPA photographer comes to stay with her and her mother.

(from The Best American Short Stories 2010)

The sight of a stranger in Riverfield always raised curiosity, and strangers did come through with some regularity these days, looking for work they knew they wouldn’t find or for food they hoped they’d be offered. They were lost men, lost from family and friends, and the closest they could come to home was someone else’s doorstep. This man, though, wasn’t walking alone, and to see her mother walking beside him struck her as a little odd.

I dunno. I guess I was pulled into this one just fine, but I wish it’d felt fresher and had more going on. Kinda boring, at times, but occasionally enlightening. The smart little jolt at the end, while ridiculous, was at least fun. Don’t regret reading it; wouldn’t recommend it.

3 thoughts on “Marlin Barton, "Into Silence"

  1. sloopie

    Hello – I went googling for comments about Ha Jin’s collection (I’m just starting) and found your blog. I’m just starting reading BASS 2010 and blogging about the stories (I’ve just done three, the first two you did, plus “Safari”) and I’d love to compare notes. If you like you can visit me at

    I liked this story, the atmosphere of it. It really felt like the South in the Depression, heavy, humid, close, claustrophobic. I agree it was short on action and heavy on internalization (something I’m accused of so I felt encouraged somehow). I loved the signing, since I studied ASL for a short time back in college and I thought the author handled it in an interesting way – like speech, in fact, letting the reader assume it was signed throughout.

    I loved the ending – it came as quite a surprise to me, and it hung with me. But it wasn’t a soul-shattering story. More in the “interesting” category.

    What I enjoyed most was the contributor’s note – he’d seen a calendar in a WPA photograph which was from his grandfather’s store, and the rumors of the deaf mute from his childhood. I have to admit, the contributor’s notes tend to be my favorite part of BASS collections!

    Karen Carlson


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