The story is enough.

The story is enough.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Ghosts and Empties" by Lauren Groff

Lauren groff bw.jpg

This story can be found in the July 20, 2015 issue of The New Yorker magazine.
First Line: "I have somehow become a woman who yells, and, because I so not want to be a woman who yells, whose little children walk around with frozen watchful faces, I have taken to lacing on my running shoes after dinner and going out into the twilit streets for a walk, leaving the undressing and sluicing and reading and singing and tucking in of the boys to my husband, a man who does not yell."

Last Line: "It is terribly true, even if the truth does not comfort, that if you look at the moon for long enough night after night, as I have, you will see that the old cartoons are correct, that the moon is, in fact, laughing, but not at us, we who are too small and our lives too fleeting for it to give us any notice at all."

I had a hard time finishing it.  For me, it was somewhere around the swans. I just stopped caring about this woman and her thoughts, observations, feelings on these therapeutic walks.

I loved the first line: "I have somehow become a woman who yells"...  It has promise and it draws me in because I am a mother and I have a dense understanding of the shame, frustration, and hopelessness that comes in moments that are pent up and explode.  But then the piece develops into a series of vignettes - possibly even mini-stories.  I am sure there can be great symbolism drawn from them, but, again, I didn't care to find the connections between her and the nuns, and the swans, and the teenage boy. 

As I forced myself to buckle down and finish the story, and I had some moments of compassion for her, the pain she must have felt discovering her husband's secret, but then I trusted she would be fine - especially as she began to move into a hopeful tone.

The pacing is akin free-verse poetry.  It is a bit distracting.  And while some of the poetic images were great (there were plenty of interesting details), I wanted a closer, more intimate tone.  The narrator shut down and needed a walk, taking us along, speaking in a code - dancing around her feelings.  I wished I had spent my time in another way.

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  1. Hi Adrienne! I agree with you right up until the last sentence you wrote. I had a hard time getting through the whole thing and ended up putting it down right around the same part of the story. I picked it back up this morning (out of boredom, honestly) and was less than impressed when I finished it up.

    But now it's been two hours since I shut the magazine and I'm still thinking about this story (and obviously Googling it to see what other people are thinking! Hah).

    Groff's writing is starting to grow on me the more I reflect on it. I could have done without some of the mundane vignettes you mentioned. The sheer volume of seemingly random musings was a bit much for my taste, but I think they lend a certain authenticity to the story.

    Apparently I was left wanting to know more about the "woman who yells" ... even if I didn't realize it as I was reading.

  2. Hi Brandy:

    Thanks for your comments! I have to agree with you, too - that there is a growing interest as I reflect. Not enough for me to go back and reread, but enough that I know I wanted more information on this woman - this woman who was vulnerable enough to share.

    Thanks for stopping by!