Monday, November 05, 2007

Reader's Diary #307- Gloria Sawai: The Day I Sat With Jesus On The Sun Deck And A Wind Came Up And Blew My Kimono Open And He Saw My Breasts

Short Story Monday

Okay, so if that title doesn't grab you, I'm not sure what would. But, provocative as that title appears at first glance, it doesn't make for a great story.

This blend of whimsy and religion has apparently convinced many people that it is somehow clever. I'm not sure why exactly, but for me it falls flat.

It starts off quite strong. It promises a pretty bizarre occurrence, yet begins with prosaic details of cooking Cream of Wheat for her children and other general doldrums of domestic life. It's a great contrast. You just can't wait for the bearded guy to show up.

Finally he does and his casual demeanour adds to the surreal experience. Suddenly a wind comes up, her breasts are exposed and Jesus simply remarks, "You have nice breasts."

But depending on where your sensitivities lie, there doesn't seem to be any blasphemous intent at all. Nor does there seem to be any message about sexuality and religion co-existing. To be quite honest, there doesn't seem to be much of a message at all!

I'm sure plenty of people would argue that the expectation of a moral or epiphany is my own fault. But, in my defense, I think Sawai unfairly implies there is something more going on (I say unfairly because if a message was indeed included, I think she shrouded it way too much). Constant reflections back to her own religious upbringing, the mention of several breasts, ridiculous and confusing scenes of a magpie disappearing into Jesus's chest and a floating Japanese lady (was the narrator supposed to be dreaming or drunk or something?), all seemed to suggest symbolism, or some profound lesson. It's like she picked topics with heavy connotations purely to fool the reader into questioning what it all means when really it meant nothing.

Is that the message? That religion and sexuality might be as mundane as preparing breakfast? A good theory- except that she begins by calling it an "extraordinary event" and the mere act of choosing this story to tell implies it meant more to the person telling it.

"The Day I Sat With Jesus On The Sun Deck And A Wind Came Up And Blew My Kimono Open And He Saw My Breasts" doesn't live up to it's title, it deflates it.

(Short Story Monday is being hosted Raidergirl today. I will host again next week. Any takers for the following weeks?)


Dale said...

I liked your analysis John and your use of the word shrouded which seemed far more clever than most of the story.

For most of the story, I kept wondering why someone would air their laundry in the living room and then go sit out on the deck with their morning wine. The rooms were wrong.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Perhaps it was a true story and that is exactly what unfolded. Or maybe it was just the morning wine talking.

Rob Hardy said...

I couldn't give the story a very close reading because I'm currently engaged in the self-medicinal numbing (with ten-year old scotch) of the sore arm in which I just received my decannual tetanus shot. But I felt thoughts forming about the juxtaposition of breasts (often an attribute of the pre-Christian feminine divine) and Jesus, the figurehead of a patriarchal religion. And perhaps your insight is correct, after all. Perhaps it is "extraordinary" to have the divine come down to one's own level. In any case, Gloria Sawai was born in Minnesota, so I'm cutting her some slack.

Allison said...

I hate it when titles don't live up to expectations.

John Mutford said...

Dale: Thanks. The wine and laundry though, I could possibly believe.

Barbara: "Unfolded"- did you intend the pun?

Rob: I hope your arm's recovering nicely. I think she had a lot of potential with the story and topic, I just don't think she pulled it off.

Allison: Me too. Though occasionally, titles don't live up to their stories.