Sunday, December 14, 2008

On "Whatever's Left of Normal" by Don Evans (3791 words) ***

Two Christmases, two stories, each one wrapped around the other to provide meaning and context. Parallel stories are a much-used technique, and this piece uses the technique to full effect. To understand that effect, I ponder what Don Evans's piece would be with only one of the stories. If one stuck with only the war story, certainly there'd still be quite a bit at stake--we're talking a life here, a quandary between saving one's self, following the rules, or saving another (or possibly simply losing both one's self and the other). It would be a compelling story, but it probably wouldn't have as much heart, wouldn't seem as real. It's the other story, the reminiscence, that grounds the war story here, that makes it something we can all feel, that pushes the story of lives at stake into our everyday life. And yet, that story by itself would not seem like much. It is only when the stakes are raised--at war--that suddenly a story about a bat becomes fraught with meaning. You can think about the technique for yourself by reading the story here at Narrative (Story Quarterly) (log-in required--but it's free!).

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