The Shoplifter Never After: A Literary Suspense Short Story
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I marveled at myself for enjoying the scenes I was witnessing, and wondered what dark magic the author had employed to make me smile at them. This young writer already possesses a remarkably sighted view into the bleakest alleys of the psyche. Part of the pleasure of the book besides the almost killing tension is that Eileen is mordantly funny. Moshfegh's brilliant storytelling builds an almost sadistic level of suspense, so that you can't help but lean in and listen to the narrator, however despicable and repulsive her confession becomes.
Eileen is quiet, awkward and lonely. Atmospheric, cinematic, and deliciously uncomfortably heartwarmingly pathetic in the best of ways. I find myself thinking about it still, months later, in the most unexpected ways.
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Mosfegh has a way with the kind of imagery that brings her world into terrible, precise emotional focus, and the book builds like a slow avalanche. What a pleasure to read! They create a harsh, blackly humorous world, like Mary Gaitskill, but less grave and with more jokes. This novel does not fit neatly into a single genre. Its protagonist is unlikable but fascinating, and ultimately sympathetic. It is a masterly psychological drama that lingers, with a disquieting effect, in the reader's mind.
Eileen is as twisted, dark, and unexpected as its title character.
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The narrative masterfully taunts…. The release, when it comes, registers a genuine shock. And Moshfegh has such a fine command of language and her character that you can miss just how inside out Eileen's life becomes in the course of the novel, the way the "loud, rabid inner circuitry of my mind" overtakes her. Is she inhumane or self-empowered? Deeply unreliable or justifiably jaded? Moshfegh keeps all options on the table…. A shadowy and superbly told story of how inner turmoil morphs into outer chaos. Shopping cart There are no products in your shopping cart.
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Revision as Transformation: The Making and Re-Making of V.S. Pritchett’s “You Make Your Own Life”
His matter-of-fact telling in such a common setting only heightens the irony. After all, barbershops are full of forgettable banter, not passionate tales of woe. He had in fact just begun a shave. The customer was having everything. In a dead place like this town you always had to wait. It was a small town in a valley with one long street, and a slow mud-coloured river moving between willows and backs of houses. The willows that have been planted in the second draft are not mere incidental ornaments by the side of the river but a symbol of grief for unrequited love or the loss of a mate.
Ten miles from this town skeletons of men killed in a battle eight centuries ago had been dug up at the Downs.
The short, declarative, objective sentences beginning with subjects and verbs force the reader to see the scene distinctly, each sentence establishing a separate image or physical detail. The full stops enforce the languid rhythm experienced by nameless narrator and reader alike. He was in his thirties.
He had a swarthy skin and brilliant long black eyes. The lashes were long too and the lids when he blinked were pale. With this objective in mind, many of the passages have been excised throughout the second draft while others have been completely rewritten see appendix. This comparison has been replaced by a simple physical description of the barber, lifted from the third paragraph of the autograph manuscript, that balances the description of his customer in the previous paragraph. At the end of the same typescript paragraph we find a similar deletion. Clearly, Pritchett wishes to arouse curiosity about both characters without giving away too many interpretive clues.
Yet, even from these early revisions, whether deletions or additions, whether in the autograph manuscript or the corrected typescript, we can see that the barber is the focus. Their notable lack of conversation indicates that they are either perfect strangers or know each other well. We are left to wonder whether their mutual silence is a result of familiarity or intimacy.
The barber, though silent, is in control of all of the action and movement in the story. He wheeled a machine on a tripod to the back of the man. A curved black thing like a helmet enclosed the head. The machine was plugged to the wall. There were phials with coloured liquids in them and soon steam was rushing out under the helmet. The long sentence that has been deleted on page three is even more revealing. The following passage is a good example of this judicious deletion:. The barber put the sheet round me. The barber was smiling to himself like a man remembering a tune.
He was not thinking about me. The small sardonic smile like the abstracted smile of a man who remembers A story he has been told and is getting another unsuspected flavour from it.
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This too has been written into the second draft. One of the added smiles, however, demonstrates the subtlety of the revisions.
~ Serenity is golden… But sometimes a few ripples are needed as proof of life.
He grinned with quiet. The young barber gave a short, dry laugh. He chuckled looked at me scornfully. The revisions in the second draft show Pritchett creating a more subtle portrayal through the implied but unsaid. From the outset then, the reader must wonder about the veracity of the details that follow. Pritchett has revised this exchange extensively in order to draw both narrator and reader into the drama.
Pritchett has changed the passage dramatically, however, by enlisting his narrator as discreet participant and commentator, adding simple actions that retard the pace and create suspense between the lines see app. A surprisingly modern aural flashback has been penned in as well. Dialogue should not be a verbatim record of what has been said, especially not in a short story where every word counts. It must advance action and wherever it has not, Pritchett has pruned it.
This simple principle is the foundation for his elliptical style and one can see merely by glancing through the appendix just how exhaustively it has been applied. Nursed him.
Usual story. But she went away for a couple of years to look after a lady and when she got fed up she came back. Pritchett has removed this background from the story in order to make our conception of the barber more ambiguous. While the original version makes him more villainous—an unscrupulous man who steals women away from sick friends, chuckling about his success, the revised draft creates the kind of ambiguity for which Pritchett is famous.
I knew my mind. All the while the barber expresses and reiterates his confidence in the harmlessness of the river excursions, we cannot discern the reality of the situation. His insistence on purportedly knowing the minds of the other players could be a sign of complete confidence or utter insecurity. Likewise, his seemingly permissive attitude about the river excursions could be interpreted variously. Once again, Pritchett has made deletions consistent with his subtler portrait of the barber. The autograph manuscript confirms a more pronounced vengefulness and malevolence in the barber while the deletion of numerous lines, facial gestures, and vindictive phrases makes the barber more sympathetic, still allowing for the possibility of his retaliatory scheme in the end.
And it is our inability to explain beyond a doubt that enhances this most thought-provoking fiction. If he is indeed an unreliable narrator, to what extent is he telling the truth? In an overtly ironic story, which lines mean the opposite of what they say? What, after all, is the complex nature of their continued association? There are two kinds of unsaid — what has been deleted from the story and the far more subtle, illusive unsaid that remains in silences. Yet the two work in concert; the first must be excised to create the second. Distilling the essence from a tangible whole creates the desired effect.