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05 November 2008

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"Like Mother Used to Make" and "Trial By Combat"
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TadMack

This sounds so good. I'm still looking for a copy to read anyway --but I'm loving the recaps!

Leila

I see some used copies at AmazonUK...

Brian F.

"A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter."

You feed the nostalgia beast within, appeasing him with childhood flashbacks.

I don't know how you find these videos (exactly what did you search for in YouTube to find THAT?) but I thank you for it.

cc

She was what is (still!) known as a "faculty wife" and I imagine she had to put up with a lot of people (not nearly as sharp as she clearly was) treating her like she was a moron. I had to bail on the first assignment because "Demon Lover" gets me unbelievably depressed.

gailg

I actually liked Like Mother Used to Make. It was about manipulation. I didn't get the feeling that David was interested in the female character romantically. By no means does that justify how she used him. If anything, it makes the whole manipulation more interesting.

Trial by Combat is about manipulation, too.

I can't say that I noticed the characters being mocked. What I have noticed is that they're alone. So far, they've been thirty-something characters alone.

David is the only character so far who has done anything about making his environment livable and shaping it to himself. Everyone else seems to live in these awful, souless places. David has made his mark on his living space. Making it desirable?

So far, not a lot happens in these stories. They seem to me to be more about situation. When I'm reading about writing short stories I see a lot about the necessity for the main characters to change. I think the characters in these stories very definitely don't change.

Unless, the change comes from them being different from having been manipulated. The younger woman in Trial by Combat should have been the more powerful character, but she was vanquished by the older woman's very weakness. So maybe her being broken is the change. The two women have changed their positions by the end of the story.

tulip

I find these stories to be very internal. The crisis and existential dread comes from the minds of the characters and their internal struggles.
And I feel the dread. *shudder

gailg

Leila--I just went back to the first post on these stories and read your comment: "It's funny, Gail, that you're seeing the world that she's creating, whereas I'm seeing the similarities between the people. The people in all of the stories I've read so far seem to be so concerned with not rocking the boat, not making a scene, not being impolite."

To me, this is part of the world building. This is how people are in the world of these stories.

However, Jackson may have felt differently. She may have been writing these stories over a long period of time and merely interested in each story and its characters in isolation. It's only when taken altogether that they appear to me to be about a specific world with specific characters who fit in it.

Leila

Brian, I'm pretty sure I just searched for 'stick of butter'. Swear to God.

cc, I've been thinking a lot about her faculty wife status. And, yeah -- the faculty cocktail parties. It's part of why I'd like to read a bio.

Gail, I liked Mother a lot, too. And I didn't get the impression that David was at all romantically interested in Marcia at all, either. The story did make me wonder what their other dinners had been like...

As for the mockery, it was more that I felt like the characters have felt like they were being mocked -- like the people they're interacting with are all smirking at them. I got that especially in The Daemon Lover, but also in Mother.

These stories are reminding my a bit of Raymond Carver's short stories.
(Or what I remember Raymond Carver's short stories being like -- it's been a long time since I've read them!) Not a whole lot happens in them, but at the same time, there's a ton going on underneath the nothing that is apparently happening, if that makes any sense at all. So much so that I feel like I've run a marathon after reading, sometimes.

I read something, somewhere (Wikipedia, maybe?) that said the original title for the collection had something to do with James Harris (the name of the character in The Daemon Lover... looking... looking... and YES. It was Wikipedia. I just went and double-checked, and OMG, the man in Mother IS named James Harris, just like the missing groom in Daemon Lover!!

!!!

Heidi

I'm beginning to get into the rhythm of these stories. I still don't have such a strong reaction like you do, Leila.

Gail, I think there is change, a whisper of a change in a failed opportunity, or a step not taken.

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