epub Dreams of Distant Lives
Although voice is front and center in Abbott's stories, he also does many interesting things with structure. I'll just comment on a few things that caught my attention. "1963" reminds me a bit of Richard Ford's story "Children," with Abbott's Marcia showing that same disaffection as Ford's Lucy. I love that Abbott conceals what Chappy writes on Marcia's mirror in lipstick. "Revolutionaries" I found riveting from the storytelling perspective. He got me in the story and held me to the end. Nice double-layered structure of expectation; first it is the friend, then it is the ex-wife. The friend's daughter is a nice diversion, juicing up the story just before the end. Interesting that the ex-wife is never really in the story, yet in a way, because she is continually mentioned, and then featured in the ending section, she becomes the story. But it's the story we are not told. Fascinating narrative strategy. "Once Upon a Time" also has a peculiar structure. The second dead dog story, told first, is the final straw. The first dead dog story, which is told last, ends the narrative. Dog one is an answer to dog two—yet there is no return to the present action of the dog two narrative. Again, I am amazed at how much detail Abbott gets into this story without bogging it down. He creates the whole world of their lives in the flow of two very specific events. "Here in Time and Not," didn't really work for me. I think, structurally, it is a fresh take on a frequently done theme (a parent wanting to protect a child from the pain of growing up), but I knew what was going to happen and Abbott gave me nothing new there. The story does feature some striking expressions describing the narrator's emotional situation. Which made me wonder if that wasn't the real purpose of the story—to let the narrator strut his language. "Happy Parts" is a totally off-kilter story. It's a slice of life; yet, here again Abbott manages to fill it full of details that reveal a much broader scope than the slice. Of course we knew the guy that gave him a ride was taking out the ex-wife, didn't we? So why is it still funny and sad?
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