‘Shot of Short’ #22: Wish Fulfillment by Mary Gaitskill

Title: Wish Fulfillment by Mary Gaitskill
Date Read: 09 February 2008
Available Online?: YES (as one of the stories posted by Harper Perennial on their website Fifty-Two Stories, which promises a new (or classic) short story from their collection, posted every week throughout 2009)

Briefly: The narrator recounts the dream of a little girl Mary, where events and feelings correspond in similar ways to the real-time events of the narrator as she relays the dream (I think :o))

Afterthoughts: I read it once, I read it twice, and, because it’s so short, I read it a third time. But for the life of me I couldn’t (still can’t) determine what on earth this story was trying to tell me. So I’ve come up with the theory – that the story has been written to purposely be as vague and ambiguous as it can be. Why? Well the story is obviously centred around a dream and the switching back and forward between reality and a dreamscape. Just as our dreams are often jumbled and not fully understood, so this story is, so that it matches that ambiguous feeling we get when attempting to recall a past dream. Does that feasible? Probably not but it’s the best theory I could come up with :o)

Notable Quote: “As Mary descended the stairs, she became me, or, to put it another way, I became dimly aware of her, descending down into herself as I, a middle-aged woman, drove through the town where I live on a rainy spring night listening to an old song on an obsolete tape. The music in the song started with the sound of a crippled machine stripped to its barest function, turning unevenly round and round on a cockeyed pivot, screeching sweetly and brokenly. There was a sound like slow-struck bells and a voice like that of somebody looking for something in the dark.”

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

*Story read as part of my 100 Shots of Short reading challenge.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).

Comments

  1. Interesting to read your site: I just stumbled upon it via Fifty-Two-Stories. com, which you link to here. ‘100 Shots of Short’ sounds like an interesting challenge; I must investigate! I love short stories, I will take a good look around here for some inspiration.

    I decided a week ago to read a book a day for a year (I was drunk I think: now I’m sober, I’m including film adaptations too, so I don’t go insane), so I’m happy to find sites like yours. Do you have a favourite short story collection?

    The Gaitskill story had a great opening line, don’t you think?:

    One night Mary, a little girl with sisters and parents who loved her, woke in a dark forest. At first she was afraid and then she realized it was her backyard.

    After that, I’m not so sure!

  2. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
    says:

    Lis,
    Great to hear from you – whether sober or not :o). Thank you for your kind words.

    ‘A book a day for a year’ – I think you’re bordering on the insane, but given I keep scheming up wacky bookish challenges myself, I don’t have a lot of room to talk (although I don’t think even *I* would go for a book a DAY :o))

    Favourite short story collection? – No one anthology springs to mind, although I love any short by Chekhov.

    I agree ‘Wish Fulfillment’ has a lot of promise in that opening line, but it just gets too obscure, too quickly. Glad I’m not the only one who thought that though :o)

    Anyway, nice to speak to you. Good luck with that insane challenge and speak to you soon I hope
    Rob