Reading Response #9

Select one of the stories assigned this week, and post a 500-word response below on what you saw as the story’s strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to also make a comment on a classmate's response for full credit. Find the stories linked below!



20 thoughts on “Reading Response #9

  1. Lilia Lundquist

    Out of the selected stories this week, I found that Mary Gaitskill’s, Romantic Weekend was the most memorable for me. The first thing that I considered to be the biggest pull for the reader is that the story is told from two different perspectives. Gaitskill is able to depict both wildly different mindsets without making the writing overwhelming to follow along with. With this style you can place yourself in both character’s shoes, I consider this to be helpful in understanding where they’re coming from. The intro begins with an obviously skittish and somewhat awkward woman describing her anxiety about meeting a man. The description of her outfit to the street corner she is waiting at gave me an image of the scene in a submissive light. Then to hear the man give his description of her from the opposite side of the street almost made me feel as though he was a predator. While Gaitskill provides great detail on the setting and character’s physical appearance, their intentions with one another are the real center of the story. My first impression was that the man was a control hungry sadist. Towards the end of the story I began to think he was instead more of a pathetic moron. He lacks any sort of control and instead seems to just speak when he feels insecure, his words reflecting off his emotions. I felt as though the woman was the one in control even though she shows more physical signs of weakness. She often would spark conversations that attempted to break through the surface of the man or would reveal more about herself. On the other hand, the man would just say derogatory comments or threaten her with vile fantasies. He never had anything of importance to say and this in turn made his character appear undesirable. He was also cheating on a woman who seemed to give him everything he wanted and more, so it was hard to have any sympathy for him when he turned out to be a coward. Watching this sort of character progression was interesting in contrast to Beth’s. She is obviously a woman of low confidence, but after being around a man of this nature she slowly is forced to reevaluate herself. She begins to understand that while she may have believed him to be a man to look up towards due to his physical appearance, his personality is not worth her suffering. Towards the end when there are at his grandmother’s home her outburst of pure frustration was well anticipated. The only thing I couldn’t stand was how instead of allowing her to end the story as a more powerful woman, Gaitskill allows for her to give herself to this man yet again. I would have preferred a different ending, maybe where she exposes him to his wife or better yet killed him. Either would have been a more satisfying ending, and would have been a great example of character growth.

  2. Tometria Jackson

    It was difficult selecting a story to write about this week, because I found all three choices distasteful. I feel like a story should be about a transcendent value that is greater than the characters in the story, and not just a glorification of their weaknesses.

    Emergency was one of those stories with zero redeeming values. Taking place at the end of summer in 1973, the main character (who is later referred to as f*he3ad) is employed in the emergency room of a hospital. He and his coworker Georgie spend the entirety of the short story drugged out on some pills that Georgie stole from the hospital. Georgie is hallucinating about blood all over the floor when a man (who is stabbed near his eye) is brought in.

    The name of this character, Terrence Weber must be significant to the author, because he uses the man’s first and last name several times throughout the remainder of the story. The events occurring in this story are disjointed, and without any sense of reason. Perhaps the author was trying to capture the random happenings through the drug-hazed perception of the two main characters.

    The author didn’t develop his characters beyond their first mention, and so I couldn’t connect with anyone in this story. I’m not sure what the point of ‘Emergency’ was, as it ended with three idiots headed for the Canadian border.

    I thought this story was weak in its plot, setting, and character development. The only thing that kept me reading to the end was the knowledge that I needed something to write about for this assignment, and I didn’t care for the subject matter of the other two stories.

    1. Lilia Lundquist

      I have found quite a few of these stories to be less than appealing. It is hard to talk about something that was unable to hold your attention, especially when you’re suppose to be talking about the story’s strengths. I couldn’t even finish Emergency, kudos to you for making it through.

    2. Kelsey

      Totally on the same page with you in regards to Emergency and the other stories this week. I’m assuming the point is we are supposed to be finding positives in even writing that is not our style or tasteful? However, it’s really hard when you can barely get through the stories! I don’t find anything interesting about listening to the hallucinations and ramblings of some dude on drugs.

  3. Benjamin Hayward

    I am choosing Lawns by Mona Simpson. All three are not really my taste of stories, but I feel that this has the most merit. I’m gonna go out on a limb at say that Mona is a pseudonym. There was a lot of sexual references in this story, and Mona would be a play on words to moan while having sex. I think that there is some truth to the merit of this story, as it is written in first person, so maybe the write was using the story as a cathartic way of dealing with some drama.

    We start with finding out that the narrator of the story is kleptomaniac, but her name is never revealed. I found the descriptions of the mailroom and cookies to be realistic, lending credibility to the story. “I can smell the cookies through the wrapping.” Believable, as I love to sniff Girl Scout Cookies. Thin mints are amazing, and my blood is full of thin mints cookies. There was some thoughts about stealing the mail, robbing people of their contents, and what to do with the trash. As TV likes to say in crime shows, “Don’t shit where you sleep.” The narrator did a god job describing the hiding of the open letters and the places she dumped them.

    Mona Simpson does keep the story moving, talking about her hatred of others and her love interest, Glenn. This is very descriptive, not only of Glenn’s looks and actions but also of his emotional connection with the narrator. She took someone she knew, and gave them an exposition, with some exaggeration. She mentions the first time she sees him is with his dad, and her dad features prominently later in the story, so I am of a mind to think that Glenn is part of a representation of the narrator’s real father. Glenn’s father and the narrator’s father are written in the same way, using the same syntax. The narrator mentions Glenn looking like Mick Jagger, but if anyone has seen him, you know he has wasted away. Maybe it is because I’m a dude, but I don’t see how he was attractive at any time in his life. Or maybe I just see through the drugs.

    The part that disturbed me the most was towards the end of the story. The narrator, I can’t help but think of as a she this whole time, goes into some graphic detail about being molested by her father. From her dad showing up in her room, getting frisky with her in the chair, the father using predatory tactics such as, “I thought you love me.”, and “You’re the only one who understands.” Mind you, this what a quick transition, though she did keep the story moving. The details about little kids having organisms, waking up to her father between her legs, with same legs on her father’s shoulders. It was just creepy. Even at the end, where the narrator tells the mother, a lawyer, who protects this serial pedophile rapist, seems like it was all based on a true story and this is her way to express it.

    That, or Mona Simpson is one hell of a creative writer.

    1. Tometria Jackson

      I totally agree with you, Benjamin. I thought the depiction of the relationship between the main character and her father was way creepy. I’m not naïve, and I realize that incest is a real occurrence in the lives of too many children in our country, but I just don’t want to read about it outside of a clinical context. I also agree that there is absolutely nothing attractive about a skinny, drug-riddled, homely man with flabby lips and long hair. I’ll bet Mick Jagger was an ugly baby too!

  4. Kelsey

    I chose to read Emergency by Dennis Johnson, and it was a little hard to follow to be honest. It’s hard for me to identify strengths to this story because I don’t really understand the point and it didn’t really capture my attention. It follows two characters who work in an emergency room together that steal pills from the hospital and get high and then spend the next night hallucinating and driving around town. None of it really seems to have a point or a meaning. I don’t feel as if the characters learned anything or anything significant happened to them. At the end of the story, they pick up a hitch hiker who is AWOL from the military and they decide to help him get to Canada. The hitch hiker asks him what he does for a living and Georgie replies that he “saves lives.” I feel like this is the only point in the story the author is trying to make and I cant quite tell what it is. Either that because they are medical professionals, they are responsible for saving lives and trusted with people’s lives, but are just as screwed up as some random hitch hiker on the side of the road or that he is saving this guy’s life by helping him dodge the draft. I don’t feel that either are respectable or worthwhile points to write a whole story about.

    1. Courtney Kisner

      I agree with you when you say it didn’t seem to have a clear point. I was also fairly confused. Once the story was over I was searching back through looking for the meaning behind the “I save lives” part. I felt that was the part where all of the details met, and the story was somehow resolved. But maybe the story was just about perspectives, and the fact that everyone is going to see different things, and is going to see themselves in a different light, whether they are on drugs or not. When I get a bit more time I think I’m going to re-read this story one or two more times, because I feel as though there is a lot there that I am missing.

  5. Courtney Kisner

    The short story “Emergency” by Denis Johnson had many interesting traits. It was unlike any story I have read. And in that way it excelled. It pushed my comfort levels a bit, and I had no idea what was going to happen–I didn’t even know what the plot was. There was not a typical conflict, falling action, and resolution. The story did not go through the highs and lows the ways I thought it would. The story is seen through the eyes of someone on drugs, so once the reader knows that, we realize we cannot trust what he is saying in a factual sense. The writing itself had a very LSD feel to it. I thought Johnson was trying to portray that out-of —sync-with-reality quality. The story gets to the point where the reader can’t be sure if what they are experiencing is actually happening, like the amusement park, or they are both just tripping out. I thought Johnson excelled in that he made it feel very raw. He keeps the reader on their toes the whole time, although that’s not always a good thing, in my opinion. I felt confused, I wanted to be immersed in the details, which were almost poetic in nature, but I felt pulled away and distracted by trying to “figure it out”. I have found movies that are shot in the perspective of someone on drugs to be very engaging, fast paced, and immersive. “Emergency” was all of these things and more, about half of the time.

    1. nmfleming

      I agree I found the reading to be weirdly written, which I think is why I found the story so hard to follow through and understand what was going on.

    2. Shana Waring

      I agree with your confusion explanation. There were too many areas of unclear “is this really happening” to make the story completely engaging. I found myself reading forward but stuck on past events still trying to piece together what was a reality. It was an interesting take on how deep a short story can go in such a condensed work. Not my favorite but a new experience in the reading nonetheless.

  6. nmfleming

    For this week’s reading I chose to read “Jesus’ Son Stories” by Dennis Johnson. I’ll be honest I was judging this reading based off the title. I am a Christian and so I thought that this reading was going to be about someone who’s life was changed through Jesus and these were his stories. Instead this was about people who work in an emergency room and steals pills from the hospital. I found the story to quite boring and not something that I would’ve read outside of this class. I thought it was very hard to follow and I didn’t quite understand the meaning behind it. Why it was so hard to understand is because of how it was written, it just seemed like someone wasn’t in their right mind while they were writing this story. It just wasn’t my favorite reading and I don’t think I ever read it again.

    1. Angela Rodriguez

      I decided to read this story for the same reason. I thought that the title of the book would make this story very inspirational and I was also disappointed. I never really understood the meaning behind the story, I was just lost and bored throughout most of the story like yourself.

  7. Angela Rodriguez

    The story from this week that I am going to write about was Emergency by Dennis Johnson. This story was very confusing, and the story line changed several times throughout the story. The story was about a man who worked in an Emergency and his co-worker. The men seemed to work at the hospital for the pills that they would steal. They spent there shifts high on these pills and would leave together to road trip and hallucinate before going back to work. I really like the parts of the stories that were in the hospital. I felt like we learned more about the characters when they were in the hospital rather than the confusion I felt from there road trip. I also really like how the story ended with Georgie claiming, “I save lives.” This showed me how Georgie saw that his job as a hospital orderly was so important. He valued his job even though he spent his days at work high and confused. There were a lot of areas that confused me in the story. Some of the weaknesses were during the road trip when the two were high. The road trip was filled with images of what he saw when he was high and what they did. It became difficult to follow. I had a lot of questions for the narrator of the story, specifically on the road trip.

    1. Jess Young

      I agree it was very difficult to follow, to the point of being frustrated. I wonder if that’s what he was going for…

  8. Jess Young

    I chose Emergency by Denis Johnson and like the other assigned readings this week, I found it to be hard to follow and not to my taste. The story focuses on two men who work in a hospital and steal drugs which they use while working and in their off time. It follows what can only be assumed to be a day in their life told from the first person point of view while under the influence. The author manages to make the reader feel confused and lost, which may have been the point of the rambling short-story.
    There was a moment in the story which actually made me curl my lip in disgust. The narrator and his friend hit a pregnant rabbit with their truck and decide they will save the baby rabbits. In an attempt to keep them warm, the narrator sticks the baby bunnies in his shirt but then in his drug-addled haze he forgets about them and crushes them. I felt like it was an unnecessary and grotesque method of getting a reaction out of the audience.
    There are several moments throughout the story which highlight interesting period-specific political problems and cultural elements. The narrator confuses a drive in Movie Theater for a graveyard full of soldiers which fills him with fear and dread. There is also a comment at the end from a man who is AWOL from the military and the two individuals offer him passage to Canada.
    I have never used drugs, but I have spent a lot of time around addicts and those under the influence just from working in emergency medicine. The positive thing I took away from this story was a better idea of what is going on inside the head of someone on drugs. It put into perspective the typical inability to follow conversation and random, unrelated interjections that I’ve observed.
    I’d be happy if I didn’t have to read another story like that again.

  9. Shana Waring

    This week I chose to reflect on Mary Gaitskill’s “Romantic Weekend”. The story was not something I would have likely finished if simply reading for pleasure. I found the extreme difference between the characters to feel a bit forced in the writing. The opening with the female character and her overwhelming self-doubt became boring quickly because of the lack of detail. It was a way for the author to tie in that something that neither the male nor female character could quite put their finger on, but it just wasn’t able to grasp my attention.

    I also found some of the settings to be irrelevant to the story. The drab detail to match the drab apartment didn’t leave a memorable impression in my mind. Instead, I feel like it took away from the story. There were also interactions in the apartment which made me feel like skipping forward. Certain areas I would have suggested spending more time to really develop the feelings between the two characters. The author, however, chose to skim quickly and miss some strong developments in the relationship.

    The airport scene felt like the most real interaction of the entire story. I thought it would allow for more development, but it was a simple reference after a really confusing scene to follow. This lead to a landslide all the way to the ending. There was not much excitement to make the reader feel like it worth examination. Like a classmate wrote, I would have liked to see a negative outcome for the male character in the end. It would have driven home the empowerment against the chauvinist character.

    I did like the aspect of having the same relationship viewed in such a different way by each character. It was always clear the male was in the mindset of being a controller and was simply there to use the female character. The female character seemed like she was smitten, yet she was the one in control unexpectedly at times. This type of plot line could make for a really exciting story in a different attempt.

    1. Brenden Couch

      I find this problem of stories not grasping my attention to be a recurring incident with most of these short stories, I haven’t liked any of them so far. I have to agree with your initial assessment at the end of your first paragraph, thanks for your post

  10. Draven

    To be completely honest Lawns by Mona Simpson wasn’t very fluid. Basically it didn’t keep the story going with a continuous and understandable plot line. The story begins with the girl stealing from the post office she works off, then she starts talking about her crush. This confused me, because she was just about to be brought before the police, and immediately switches over to her talking about a group of people in her old school. Then she starts talking about her college crush, Glenn. Obviously I missed something because this boyfriend thing goes on for a few, several, pages. Then, finally, they return to the post office thievery. Now why did Mona do that, to stop one part of the plot, just to begin another piece of the story. I get that Glenn is a big part of the plot, but why then. She should have started with Glenn and then began the post office plot-point. That is only the beginning of the book, so that’s what I say.
    Then there’s the father. This is actually a problem where I live. I have a friend that I knew very well. She was abused by her brother, and nobody knew for years. This friend finally told the truth to her parents, but now they are sending her to therapy that she doesn’t want to go to. So this story was a little personal to me.

  11. Brenden Couch

    I would like to focus on a story without focus, entitled Emergency by Denis Johnson. Essentially a story of drug ridden hospital workers and a man with a knife in his head. In the story it wonders around a main point but in my mind it never really arrived at its destination whatever it was. Not to mention it was quite gruesome and disgusting. However with all the negative I can easily say that it was easy to imagine pill poppers working through these tragic situations. I could see the rabbits although I really didn’t want to and it kept me more interested than a majority of these odd stories that are in this book. Its weakness lies in focus. It really is written very disjointedly and that may be intended as it is a story of life avoiders aka drug users popping all manner of different pills. I am surprised that nothing was said about the orderly removing the knife when a brain, eye, and gas man were on call. It is quite an extraordinary tale I mean to say it was weird as my wife also thought when I had her read it to see what I was missing.

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