Monday, March 30, 2009

Reader's Diary #472- Elizabeth Tallent: No One's A Mystery

This week's story came highly recommended by Eva last week, so I just had to give it a shot. "No One's A Mystery" by Elizabeth Tallent is a few brief moments between an 18 year old girl and her boyfriend, a married man named Jack.

Tallent has painted a very precise picture with amazing images; images that are as common as the very scenario she is describing. I love the details. My favourite part of the story comes from the Rosanne Cash song that plays on the radio. Not only does Cash entirely fit this picture, but Jack's question "Do you think she's getting famous because of who her daddy is or for herself?" captures so much of the story's motif, it's brilliant.

It's Jack's characteristic cynicism for sure, and though the girl ignores his question, the closing conversation suggests there is some similarity between Cash and the girl. Had Cash been a cynic like Jack, would she have tried? For now, the girl in this story is also optimistic. (Try not to pay attention to Cash's words if you want to keep the future a mystery.)

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Stacy said...

From both your and Eva's review, this sounds like one I have to read.

Alisa said...

I like the idea of songs used in short stories, but I sometimes wonder if it is a form of cheating. Glad to hear that this one works for you.

John Mutford said...

Book Psmith: I hope you enjoy it!

Alisa: Interesting, why do you feel it's cheating? Maybe it's like riding the coattails of the singer or songwriter who's already triggered certain emotions? Anyway, in this case it wasn't a song I was familiar with, so with the exception of the one line quoted, the song didn't bring a lot of connotations- certainly the fact that Rosanne is Johnny Cash's daughter is just as relevant. She could have gone with the original John Hiatt version. Incidentally, I went looking for a copy of the song and Hiatt's was all I could come up with (which I didn't particularly like). Does anyone know where to find Rosanne's?

Bybee said...

Isn't it on the Seven Year Ache album???

John Mutford said...

Bybee: No, but according to Wikipedia the song (called "It Hasn't Happened Yet) is on her "Somewhere In The Stars" album. Unfortunately, that's not on iTunes in Canada. Grrr.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

When I need a break from my work reading today, I will dip into this story. As long as it contains no oil industry jargon.

Unknown said...

Some writing seems to use music as a shortcut to identity (either a character's or the author's), like aspirational chick-lit name-drops luxury brands.

The main accusation, though, is probably against myself. If I'm tempted to drop song lyrics into a story I'm working on, I immediately suspect laziness. I'm relying on an association that means something to me, but might not to anyone else.

It would be nice if it worked seamlessly, like the soundtrack in a movie, but on the page it's usually much more clumsy.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: You're back in the working world? That's good though, isn't it?

Alisa: That's a valid issue, but I personally haven't found music all that intrusive. Then, I'm a music and music trivia junkie so I usually just get excited. I do have a problem when an author tries too hard to set the time with music and other pop culture references. Just once I'd like to read a story about the 80s that doesn't mention Rubik's Cube and Thriller.

Unknown said...

Hi John-

This is the only short story I read so far and my summary is a couple of weeks old. We have been having both internet AND telephone connections for about 2 months now and I cannot sign into any one of my e-mail addresses, so I haven't been back to my short story group Nutshell Cubbyhole. I am missing that group because of the livly discussions we have on some pf the stories. I am sure that Project Gutenberg and Munsey's have some short story colletions. And thanks for the nice comment you posted on my blog. I got accepted by the special bus service and I am waiting for my blue wheelchair. It will be at least a month before I get it. Blue is my favorite color. I am putting up a followers box and I will like for you to sign up for it. My blog is a mess because of the internet connection; I have been trying for the past two month to take my book challenges from the alphabetical list that I have them in into catagories. Whenever mom says we have three green lights on our modem, we drop everything and go to our computer/ laptop (I have the laptop) because we do not know how long the internet connection will last. I bet that AT&T cringes every time my mom calls them! Judy/IB