Saturday, August 6, 2022

Reading 10

Beth Nugent, "Locusts," City of Boys: Stories

A few preparatory remarks. I first became aware of Beth Nugent through a great short story I read of hers published in The Best American Short Stories series. I don't remember which story or which volume. But I liked the story so much, I bought her one and only collection of short stories, this one, for my Kindle. This was a long time ago. Years ago. At the time, I started reading through the collection and stopped, because I wasn't as thrilled by the other stories as I was by the one that had hooked me. But I'm a glutton for punishment. In trying to read all the short story collections on my digital and physical bookshelves, I decided to give this one another go.

Here we are with the story "Locusts." There's a female narrator, sixteen, who has been out of school because she had hepatitis. It's summer now, she's cured. She'll be able to return to school in autumn. Now at the start of summer, some family members come to live with them, the girl's aunt and uncle and cousin, all on her father's side (the relations are a bit confusing, but I believe the uncle and the girl's father are brothers). The narrator's mother is not happy about this situation.

The new family dynamic is immediately awkward. Whereas the narrator's mother and the aunt seem to get along fine and the uncle and narrator's father get along, the uncle and aunt do not. She knows how lascivious he is. His perverseness is evident to the narrator. His eyes linger on her body, he makers suggestive comments, he tries to touch her shoulder and arm, he offers her sweaty candy corn balled up in a fist (he carries around bags of candy corn because he remembers the narrator liked candy corn when she was younger; he's always offering it to her). One night, he even sneaks into her bedroom, drunk, sits on the edge of her bed, and says he wants to tell her a story. She leaps from the bed.

As for the cousin who is staying, her name is Francine, and she is also sixteen. The narrator remarks on how Francine's figure has changed where her own has not. She's jealous of her cousin's appearance and also interested in her boy-craziness, which she herself did not undergo because she was kept from school because of her hepatitis. One night, the uncle and cousin and the narrator go to the carnival in town where Francine meets a boy. She proceeds to go on several dates with this boy, but the narrator never meets him.

Meanwhile, the mother is still struggling to have her husband's family live with her. She seeks consolation from their neighbor, Carol. She cries in her neighbor's arm outside on the patio. Once, from the window, the narrator sees her mother and Carol kissing long and passionately.

The story ends with the mother sitting on the edge of the narrator's bed, smoking a cigarette and saying that she's thirty-six and never expected her life to turn out this way.

Silvia Federici, "Marx, Feminism, and the Construction of the Commons," Patriarchy of the Wage

Trying to clear this book off the docket. The essays are repetitive relative to one another. In this one, the newest thing said involves Federici's criticism of Marx. While Marx acknowledged that capitalism was alienating and exploitative, he also held that it was a necessary stage in the development of our human capacities. Federici says he never should have said that. He should have focused instead on the destructiveness of capitalism and its creation of hierarchies. Leftist squabbling. Fighting shadows.

Ted Hughes, "Moonwalk," Birthday Letters: Poems

Impatient with foul Ted. Did not read this attentively. Obscurantist stuff, woman equals moon, Sylvia able to take the raw powers of moon and turn them into poetry. Wonk wonk.

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