Monday, October 11, 2010

"Unbelief" by Michael Marshall Smith

This is a short one but a good one.

Two men meet in a park. Faith is discussed. It's Christmas Eve.

In a way this story reminds me of "Hills Like White Elephants," by Hemingway. Two nondescript people sitting across from each other at a table. This one goes further, though. Much further in exploring one character over the other. Here, we have a first-person narrator, who we follow past the table scene into his home on Christmas Day, into his life, to see his family, and how his choices have affected his relationship with them.

One of the best things about this story is the mystery. A character says, "Disbelief is easy.... It's faith that takes courage, and character." Clearly both characters have faith in something. Different things, really. But they both end up at the same table. The narrator and dialogue allude to the characters' pasts, but the audience does not know - cannot know - what has come before. All that is evident are the dissimilarities between the two characters. Smith has taken two familiar archetypes and muddled them up, confusing, and blurring their once distinct moral boundaries. All that's left is to question what is right.

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