Monthly Archives: September 2010

Donald Barthelme’s “The School” and Daniel Orozco’s “Orientation”

In both of these pieces, pay particular attention to word choice, patterns, and the intentional subverting of readerly expectations.

1) If we read “The School” under the expectations of strict realism, we’d be horrified.  Where and how does Barthelme provide clues within the text for how to read this story?

2) Why does Barthelme use an adult’s voice to ask children’s questions?  (or, why are these children so strangely adult-like?)

3) “Orientation” works with an interesting and intricate point of view/narrative distance.  Why does Orozco give such detailed, personal information about everyone except the narrator?

4) What’s so significant about the repetition of the phrase “he/she/you might be let go?”

Mary Gaitskill Bonus Links

For more Mary Gaitskill, try:

Her short story “Mirrorball”

Her February 2009 interview in The Believer

Mary Gaitskill’s “Tiny, Smiling Daddy”

Please address one or more of the following questions in your response.  Remember to keep these brief–about a paragraph or so in length.

1)  Pay close attention to this story’s structure and use of flashback and memory.  Why do you think Gaitskill made the choices she did?  In particular, why dos the very last memory appear at the end of the story?

2) Why are we never shown the father and Kitty interacting during the story’s present action?

3) How do you feel toward the father character, and how does Gaitskill achieve that effect?

George Saunders Bonus Links

For more George Saunders, try:

George Saunders on The Colbert Report (October 8, 2007)

Interview on Powells

His short story, “Puppy” (The New Yorker, May 28, 2007)

George Saunders’ “Sea Oak”

Please address the following questions in your response.  Remember to keep this brief–about a paragraph or so.

This piece incorporates elements of genre fiction (the zombie/horror story), but goes in unexpected directions with it.  Does it work?  Why/why not?

What are Saunders’ obsessions?  What would you say is his writerly project, and how does he go about exploring it in this particular piece?

Amy Bloom Bonus Links

For more on Amy Bloom, try:

her official website

Slate‘s review of her most recent story collection

Amy Bloom’s “Silver Water”

Please address one or more of the following questions in your response. Remember to keep these brief–about a paragraph or so in length.

1) Why do you think Bloom chose Violet as the story’s narrator?  How much do you trust her (Violet) and why?

2) There’s a lot of humor in this story — is it appropriate, given the subject matter?  Why would Bloom include it?

3) By the end of the story, how have your feelings toward the family, especially Violet, changed?  What do you think about these people?  Who’s the most sympathetic?

Jean Thompson Bonus Links

If you just can’t get enough, try:

Jean Thompson’s Official Home Page

New York Times book review of her short story collection, Throw Like a Girl

A 2007 Interview on Zulkey.com

Feel free to share more in the comments!

Jean Thompson’s “It Would Not Make Me Tremble to See Ten Thousand Fall”

Please address one or more of the following questions in your response.  Remember to keep these brief–about a paragraph or so in length.

1) What’s the POV (point of view) in this story, and why do you think Thompson chose it?  Would you have preferred to see Kelly Ann or one of the other characters as narrator instead?

2) Is Jonesy useful to the story?  What about the killdeer?

3) What’s the significance of the scene on page 58-59 (in which Kelly Ann, Jack, Lucy and Pete talk about childbirth)?