I’m grateful to the American literary blog, The Black Letters, for this lovely commentary on my Boston Review story “There Are Two Pools You May Drink From”. I particularly appreciated the comparison to Faulkner’s Rose For Emily! The Black Letters has a focus on speculative fiction, gothic and fairy-tale inspired work. I really enjoyed browsing through the insightful reviews, and have earmarked a couple of their recommendations for future reading. Here’s most of it:
The title is terrific, to begin with – lovely, ominous, with fairy-tale echoes – and the story plays out that sense of unsettling stillness and depth, keeps it pouring on and on.
I’m struck by the story’s intense sense of gaze – a level, magnetic gaze. The narrator seems all gaze, determinedly empty of particularities of self, extroverting with quiet, furious energy only her hunger for others’ experience, the “kind of hunger [that] never really leaves.”
But then again, there are those sudden emergences of an articulated “I,” beautifully placed to startle amid the stream of vivid remembrance. “I know you can never really go back. I have lied to people myself and watched them nod in agreement and say, yes, that’s just how it was.” “I have come all this way, I wanted to say, and across all these years for you to tell me whose face it was that loomed over yours while you cried or pretended to sleep. I wanted her to tell me so that I could then tell her about some of the things that had happened to me.” It was for these effects of consciousness that I really loved the story, more than for any of the suggestions of plot that gradually emerge. The plottier revelations – as lightly handled as they are – felt expected, a little tired, compared to everything that surrounds them. (Maybe I’m just tending toward some ridiculous vanishing point where I’ll finally lose interest in anything but atmosphere in fiction; more seriously, and specifically to the story, I do think that I’m impatient with or jaded by certain kinds of narrative convention around sexual trauma.)
Thinking more, I’m reminded suddenly of Faulkner’s “A Rose for Miss Emily;” these two stories fit together well, with their ethic of small-town Gothic, and intense foregrounding of the act of witnessing.