Russell Banks, "Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story"

A handsome man takes up with a homely woman.

(from The Angel on the Roof)

The perspective shifts from first person to third and back because, the narrator explains, a sense of distance may help him understand the events he’s recounting. It’s something of a meta/experimental method, but it comes off like an eccentric storyteller’s attempt to get to the bottom of his own motives. It’s not a jarring sea change when it happens. There’s a casual tone to what might otherwise come off as pretentious. Here’s an excerpt:

Here is the scene. You can put it in the present, even though it took place ten years ago,
because nothing that matters to the story depends on when it took place,
and you can put it in Concord, New Hampshire, even though that is indeed
where it took place, because it doesn’t matter where it took place,
so it might as well be Concord, New Hampshire,
a place I happen to know well and can therefore describe
with sufficient detail to make the story believable.

Read the whole story here.

It’s the official web site of Lisa Glatt, author of A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That, a novel I have seen often, but not read (because, you know, it’s a novel). Elsewhere on her site she suggests, as if to a class, and she does teach:
Read Russell Banks’ short story ‘Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story’ and begin your own piece about an unlikely pair. Notice how Banks’ builds tension in the story, patiently, scene by scene. Try that. Don’t just ‘introduce’ your characters but have them meet up again, either at the same place or elsewhere. Notice how this alone moves your story or poem forward.”
Made me miss the classroom setting, and the writing excercises I shoulda have spent more time on. Cue nostalgic Pavement song. “Shady Lane,” maybe.

This story came recommended by reader Edan Lepucki, who suggested many other stories I’ll get to at some point. I think that’s the end of Recommendation Week. A day early, but I haven’t come across any of the other story suggested to me, and I have some recent purchases burning holes in my backpack. Read that sentence and begin your own convoluted metaphor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>