Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mystic River and The Empty House

I read The Empty House by Nathan Oates, with this week's novel, Mystic River by Dennis Lehane.

1. Compare and Contrast.
These two readings were the most diverse of any two pieces I've looked at this session. As a matter of fact, they were almost exact opposites in everything. House was a story that unfolded in Guatemala, among communities of poverty and third-world ideals. Mystic River unfolded between two inner-city communities divided by class and by a murky river.

The characters of Mystic River were carefully described and the reader was given many opportunities to know and build opinions about each of them. Besides their depth, there was a difference in that there were lots of characters to support and contradict others. The few characters of Empty House were flat and it was hard to identify or bond with them because of that.

The entire concept of "mystery" was prevalent throughout Mystic River, in that there were questions that arose about many different issues, from marriage and relationships to murder and extortion. It seemed that the only "mystery" in Empty House was that one character disappeared. The rest of the story takes shape when the brother of the missing character goes to Guatemala to retrace his brother's steps. As the reader, one is given closure at the end of House, when we find out the fate of the missing brother. However, there is no closure for the brother, who's story just drops off.

2. Author gender differences.
Between the novel and the short story (both written by men), I saw no connections nor any major discrepancies that should be attributed to gender of author. However, I would like to note that I've begun to see a little difference between the six weeks of short stories and author gender. It seems to me, that the short stories written by women are appearing to pan out with more full descriptions of characters. There appears to be more intent by the female authors to have readers emotionally connect with the characters of the stories.

3. Review of short story.
I really didn't care much for The Empty House. Although it began as an interesting story about the mysterious disappearance of a journalist in Guatemala, it soon dawdled off with telling another story about the journalist's brother who comes to Guatemala to try to find out what happened or at least come to terms with it all. The story then shifts back and forth between the journalists' last few days (in third person omniscient) to the brother's search (in first person). Once the fate of the journalist is finally apparent, the brother's story is abandoned. I couldn't tell if I was supposed to assume that the brother ever found out anything, or if he was just going to return to the U.S. frustrated. There was just no challenge for the reader; no "wow", nor even a "hmmmm".

4. Reflection.
Having nearly reached the end of this session's readings, I've begun to figure out that I have specific tastes in the stories that we have read. I guess one of the things that I can specifically say that I enjoy those stories which have characters of true personal conviction and strength, yet who demonstrate some endearing human weakness. I always assumed that I would prefer the "larger than life", superhero type good-guy. But I'm finding a pull toward more realistic human behaviors in characters.

I had seen the movie some years ago, and had hoped for some big differences between the text and the film. I think the most glaring difference between the two (considering it's been many years since I saw the movie) is that I don't remember there being much emphasis on Celeste and her relationship with Dave. The book really spent a lot of time with those two characters, and I think it made a difference in my reaction to Dave's demise.

1 comment:

  1. I think it is interesting to compare a film version to the book that it is based on. I am looking forward to seeing the film version of Mystic River now that I have read the story. I think it is interesting that you found the film dealt with Dave and Celeste differently since this was key to Dave's death by Jimmy.