Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Diana Rowland's story in Writers of the Future, volume XXII

Posted by Trent Walters at 8:23 PM
In "Schroedinger's Hummingbird," Diana Rowland has written a sort of tragic-domestic/magical realist/interstitial/SF story. A woman has lost her child due to an accident of either her or her husband's leaving the child-gate unlatched. In her grief, she revisits the past, but each time she goes back it changes. She tries to reset the past to where it was so that she can change it back to what it should have been without the mistake, but she keeps failing.

At times, this piece is genuinely moving. But the impact it has often gets diluted with wordiness:
at the bright red plastic feeder she'd put out the day before. That long-ago day before. She barely remembered that yesterday anymore, it had been so long since she'd lived it.

This says the same thing about four different ways when one or two would have worked (after all, the structure of the story and the story itself goes into this in some detail). This is not to say that repetition is always ineffective--Joyce Carol Oates has demonstrated otherwise throughout her career, but if you look closely, each of her repetitions is slightly different, shading a bit differently.

Also, while "telling" or explaining one's emotional state to one's self in the interior of a third-person limited POV is necessary, it sometimes goes on a bit long or isn't as sharp as it might be:
she sipped her tea and pondered the bright futures stretching before her and her wonderful family.
Nonetheless, Rowland makes the story worth reading by capturing some of the spirit of churning over the same old events with the frustration that such behavior entails:
She lost six months of her life that way--six months that had never happened except in her memory.

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