Kiss me, I'm Catholic.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Two Short Stories for January 22

Hills Like White Elephants
by Ernest Hemingway

I first read this in high school, and I was intrigued by the way it snuck around the ideology of my largely pro-choice classmates and haunted them. They read Hemingway's curt little description, The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain, and saw fertility denied and love imperiled. The story is just a conversation, really - it uses the absolute minimum to achieve its effect. Amy Welborn has a thread about it here.

Why Can't He Be You?
by Eve Tushnet

This story has the same realism as Hemingway's. And by "realism" I mean its honesty about how quotidian and colorless evil can be when you actually see it, in real life, without a lot of adjectives decorating it. Graham Greene said something (I don't have the quote) to the effect that often it's easier to die than to make a scene, as anyone who has ever prayed at an abortion clinic can attest. (The poem below came from that feeling of helplessness.)

Eve's story, though, holds out the stark assurance that these suspended emotions will be purged in the end, "someday, but not today." Today, the narrator's very equanimity reveals a convalescent conscience and a soul still weak from a long illness, the longest illness; but someday she will know the raw happiness of grief. Beati qui lugent. Someday this sensual twilight will be lifted from us, and the music that rules us in the logical kingdom of our principles will sound in the substantial air, self-evident to the ear, so that we can march and dance to it at the same time. And death shall have no dominion.

But it will not be today. Not on this day out of all the year.

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