Archive for October, 2014

Encounters with Unexpected Animals

I found Johnston’s short story “Encounters with Unexpected Animals” to be extremely strange. Everything about the story is unexpected; a macaw on a mans shoulder, zebras with cattle, goats on top of peach trees, peacocks in San Antonio, the geeky son going out with a girl with a reputation, the detour Lambright takes with Lisa in the car, and finally the move Lisa pulls to one up Lambright.
Even though Lambright’s character is supposed be a protective father I found him creepy. Even his name creeped me out, being so different from the others like Lisa and Robbie. Lambright knows that Lisa has “a reputation, a body, and a bar code tattooed on the back of her neck.” which he sometimes notices “when her green hair [is] ponytailed.” We learn that Lambright is aware of his sons 17 year old girlfriends body and sometimes looks at her tattoo all in the first paragraph. We also learn in the first sentence that Lambright will be taking Lisa home after dinner. Maybe if we had gotten to know more about Lambright the first paragraph wouldn’t have seemed so off, but because it starts off with that I immediately got a strange vibe from him. The story grows more uncomfortable when Lambright takes Lisa “outside the city limits” and turns off the car to tell her to stop seeing his son. ”’Lisa,” he said, his tone pleasingly superior. He liked how much he sounded like a father.” Lambright seems to like being dominant and in control over others, especially Lisa. When she scoots towards him he notes that no one is around. He “smelled lavender, her hair or cool skin.” All the little details that he notices about Lisa throughout the story felt inappropriate. A dad shouldn’t notice his sons girlfriends body, tattoos, or the way she smells.
I almost felt bad for him in the end when Lisa runs away, threatening to lie about what happened. Lambright may have had good intentions when he took Lisa out there to lecture her but from the way the story started and how Lambright notices Lisa I think theres more to it. Lisa’s movements “stirred in him a floating sensation, the curious and scattered feeling of being born on waves or air or wings. He was disoriented, short of breath. He knew he was at the beginning of something, though just then he couldn’t say exactly what.” Johnston leaves us hanging with the feeling that something is about to happen. Im almost glad it ended like that, the story was strange enough without the reader knowing what happened, and this causes us to form our own conclusions.

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troe

October 28th

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Book Jacket

It is never easy to love someone who is slowly turning into someone else. As her mothers good days are replaced with bad days Tammy knows it is only so long before Alzheimers will take everything. She watches as her mothers memory deteriorates before her eyes, helpless to the fact that one day she will be left with nothing. Their relationship changes as their roles reverse, and Tammy finds herself struggling to play mother instead of daughter. How do you care for someone knowing that tomorrow could be the day they forget you?

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troe

October 7th

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“Chapter Two” Antonya Nelson

Antonya Nelson had my attention from the start of her story “Chapter Two”. She begins briefly mentioning an A.A. meeting before launching into a ridiculous story about her neighbor, Bergeron Love, who showed up naked on her porch one night. “Her neighbor’s nakedness seemed sad and enervated, breasts flat on her chest, a kind of melted look to her flesh, ankles thick on splayed bare feet. Southern belle in decline, a dismal After picture.” (page 173) The description seemed to depress the absurdity of the story. The image I had of her neighbor showing up naked on her porch is no longer as funny, instead I just feel sad for her.
The tense switches with the scene. The flashback has ended and now Hil is back in her A.A. meeting taking in everyones reactions to her story about Bergeron. The way in which her story starts with a bang distracts the reader from the other story that is being told. Hil likes to tell the story of Bergeron because she is “tired of telling her own story at A.A.” (page 173) Bergeron’s story is meant to take the spotlight off of Hils own life, which seems to be a failure. Bergeron’s crazy personality makes Hil seem more normal. Later she admits that “ It’s good to have someone else’s bad habits around to put your own in perspective.” (page 182) Nelson did a good job with switching from the present to a flashback; I never felt lost or confused about which was the present and which was the flashback.
Hils own life is never fully discussed. At the end of the story we still don’t know what happened between Hil and her husband or what Hil will do with the rest of her life. It doesn’t look too promising though. She leads a double life pretending to be almost a year sober at A.A. meetings when in reality she has not quit drinking. It seems her son Jeremy is supposed to be compared to Bergeron’s son, Allistair, who has grown up and left his crazy mother behind after spending his childhood embarrassed of her. Despite what Hil thinks Jeremy is embarrassed of his mom too. She is divorced, struggling with alcohol, and living with an obese woman. Soon like Allistair Jeremy will move out and on with his life.
At the end of the story Hil ends up finding a different A.A. place so she will be able to keep telling the story of Bergeron instead of her own. She isn’t ready to confront that maybe one day her life will end up like Bergerones with her son gone and no one their to love her.

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troe

October 6th

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“The Chair”

David Means story “The Chair” seems to move along through the main characters head rather than through action. I felt lost in his thoughts, much as I think he is during the day when he watches Gunner. I still don’t know how I feel about the story. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it. It wasn’t until Gunner fell from the wall that I felt the story really move. It made me wake up from his thoughts to concentrate on the action at hand, but by that time the story was almost over.
I felt a loneliness for the main character as his wife drifted further from him and more towards “the pull of the city” where she worked. I couldn’t figure out if it is really her job or another man that keeps his wife Sharon so distant, but whatever it is it leaves only him to figure out how to be the parent. At times it seems that he is unsatisfied spending every day at home with Gunner, but he tells the reader “It’s not that I feel sorry for myself in any way, because I cherish these moments with my boy, delight in being with him.” (page 117) However, I didn’t really get this feeling until the end of the story when he holds his son after he’s fallen and realizes what a “pure love” it is.
The first part of the story was more focused on showing the struggles of a parent. “I relish the line I have to walk between being loving and soft and coddling one second, and the next having to reestablish my command” (page 117). We see him trying not to assert himself too much but at the same time make sure Gunner knows he’s still there.
The story would have had a different effect on me if he had not had this moment with Gunner at the end. It meant so much more for him to connect with Gunner, because it feels as if he is slowly losing his wife.

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troe

October 2nd

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