Monday, October 11, 2010

"The Stars Are Falling" by Joe R. Lansdale

Never heard of Lansdale before. You? I think I like him, though, after reading this short story, the longest of the bunch so far.

The main character, Deel, is a WWI vet, coming "back from the dead" to his rural farm, wife, and child. The story essentially deals with Deel's unfamiliar life, his unfamiliar wife, and his inability to rejoin society effectively. In that way it has a similar feel to many post-war short stories, such as Tim O'Brien's.

What sets this story apart are the masterful connections throughout the story. The title, which is one of the recurring motifs, ties together the farm and the battlefield, as well as life and death, which find Deel in both places.

Another excellent aspect of the story, and one that I respect whenever I encounter it, is the way Lansdale openly and obviously reveals the plot's trajectory. It's a kind of dramatic irony that allows the audience to see what the character(s) cannot. The move takes some of the mystery out of the ending, but replaces it with a different kind of question. Instead of "What is going to happen?" the audience wonders, "How is it going to happen?" It's a subtle but interesting reversal of audience expectation, and I almost always like it when it works as well as it has here.

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