Monday, May 26, 2008

Reader's Diary #361- Laura Bork: Mama Loved Patsy Cline

Short Story Monday

I'm not great with small talk. Correction: I don't enjoy small talk. However, if you have any interest in music, doesn't matter what genre, I'll converse with you. Not that I'm an expert, but I have enough passing knowledge of jazz, punk, hip hop, etc that I've avoided many awkward and potentially long evenings amongst people of whom I had absolutely else nothing in common, talking endlessly about music. Best hair metal ballad? I'll try Cinderella's "Heartbreak Station". Most talented offspring of Bob Marley? Let's say Damian. Ahh music. The great connector.

It's the connections, or the search for them, which makes Laura Bork's "Mama Loved Patsy Cline" such a great story. Margaret, the narrating protagonist, is visiting her home to retrieve her deceased father's cello, having taken her friend, and desired partner, Rhoda home with her.

There are many obvious missed connections in the story. Margaret wants to be with Rhoda, while Rhoda just wants to be friends. Margaret seems somewhat ashamed of her mother, sister and home. Margaret's mother was a fan of Patsy Cline, while her father was into Debussy. It's the seeming lack of compatibility that gives the story its tense atmosphere and subtle plot.

Such a story could be perceived as depressing. I don't think I'm giving anything away with this but the last sentence even ends with, "...the distance between us quickening as we drove away."
Certainly doesn't appear to end on an uplifting note.

I have read plenty of stories and novels that I've enjoyed yet consider them to be downers. And it rarely fails that if I ask around enough, some other reader has found it "strangely uplifting." One of the Canada Reads panelists a few years back tried to make the case that there was hope in Anosh Irani's The Song of Kahunsha. I guess everyone perceives things differently, but in that case I couldn't help but feel that too often we want hope, or at least a positive message, so badly that we invent one. And yet here I am looking for redemption in Bork's story.

To me, the contrast between Margaret and Rhoda is at the crucial point of the story. Whereas Margaret seems to dwell on the differences between herself and others, Rhoda seems to fixate on whatever similarities she can find. Despite their failed relationship as girlfriends, it is Rhoda that gives the story has an ounce of hope. One hopes that Margaret will learn her way of looking at the world.

Yes, mama loved Patsy Cline and papa loved Debussy, but they lived together for thirty-five years. They both loved music after all.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

That's a really poignant story. I felt particularly bad for DebbieSue.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: Wasn't it though. I sort of stumbled upon this story of Bork's but I'll definitely be looking out for more by her.

Bork Power said...

Hello, John! This is actually Laura Bork! I found your blog and post when I was doing my bi-monthly self-Google (really, who doesn't?), and cannot tell you how flattered I am. I'm not sure how you found my story, though I'm certainly happy you did and even happier that you (and Barbara!) enjoyed it. You made my day--my year, really. Thank you!

John Mutford said...

Laura: I'm not sure exactly how I came across your story either except that it was pretty random. Glad I did though. It made my day, too.