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#91458 - 02/22/12 10:31 AM March 2012: "What a Thought" / "Inner Balance"
LaSalleUGirl Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/25/01
Posts: 1895
Loc: Philadelphia, PA, USA

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It's Ash Wednesday, which is a reliable sign that March is nearly upon us. As you may recall, we had an even harder time than usual narrowing down our selections this year, and so we decided to double-up on short stories this month.

Our first story, Shirley Jackson's "What a Thought" is from a newly released collection called Just an Ordinary Day, which Jackson's children compiled from stories that were published in popular magazines and from a stack of unpublished works they found after her death.

The second story is Kate Atkinson's "Inner Balance."

Both stories explore tense and sometimes hurtful family relationships, which is why I decided to pair them. I thought they'd work well together.

Discussion begins on March 15. Happy reading!

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#91466 - 02/29/12 10:00 AM Re: March 2012: "What a Thought" / "Inner Balance" [Re: LaSalleUGirl]
LaSalleUGirl Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/25/01
Posts: 1895
Loc: Philadelphia, PA, USA

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Bump! Happy Leap Year! Discussion of these short stories begins on March 15.
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#91482 - 03/15/12 11:01 AM Re: March 2012: "What a Thought" / "Inner Balance" [Re: LaSalleUGirl]
LaSalleUGirl Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/25/01
Posts: 1895
Loc: Philadelphia, PA, USA

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It's the ides of March, and more people than Caesar had better beware, if these stories are anything to go by.

There's something so creepy about the intrusive thoughts that plague Margaret in "What a Thought," because Jackson manages to capture the sense that the thoughts are somehow coming from *outside* Margaret, which I suspect is why so many people who suffer from auditory delusions and intrusive thoughts claim that they are the victims of CIA thought experiments and whatnot. I like that we never get a clear sense of why Margaret decides to give in to the thoughts. It's not like the voice taps into some deep-seated dissatisfaction about her marriage or forces her to confront a history of abuse.

Atkinson's June (the second) reminds me of Tash Vine from Clatterford (or Jam and Jerusalem, depending on what part of the world you hail from), although Atkinson's story is from the daughter's perspective where Clatterford tends to present Tash's actions from her mother's vantagepoint. June is remarkably unsympathetic as a narrator. I have some sympathy for Margaret, for reasons I can't fully articulate, but June just makes me want to shake her.

What did you think of these stories?

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#91483 - 03/18/12 09:14 PM Re: March 2012: "What a Thought" / "Inner Balance" [Re: LaSalleUGirl]
Kivrin Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 4604
Loc: Santa Cruz, CA, USA

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I liked both stories, although I liked Atkinson's "Inner Balance" more. I thought the stories worked well together too. Very similar themes! Somewhere mid-way through "What a Thought", it seems that Margaret's thoughts are no longer "outside" her, but become very real and premeditated thoughts. I don't have any sympathy for her though. Perhaps because we don't have a clear sense of why she decides to do the deed. I found myself feeling more sympathetic toward June. She's not very likeable, true, but at least we have a sense of why she is having her creepy intrusive thoughts. I feel a bit of compassion for her despite her nasty, negative attitude. Hmmm. Interesting.
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#91501 - 03/26/12 06:42 PM Re: March 2012: "What a Thought" / "Inner Balance" [Re: Kivrin]
AngDS
Ching Shih


Registered: 09/08/00
Posts: 134

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hi chicklitters! wow its been a long time since I've been here...and wow hurtful family relationships indeed!

Both stories really grabbed me and I agree they had very similar themes.

I felt more sympathy/compassion for Margaret. I thought she was conflicted about her thoughts and actions. I took it as actively trying to fight the impulses whether they be hallucinations or not. However, I am not sure I ever really thought they were "outside" her. I felt she was surprised by them and the fact that her husband became concerned demonstrated to me that she was not exhibiting her "normal" behavior.

June the second generated less compassion from me - although she did appear to be in a hard life situation. But instead of fighting the negative thoughts, I felt she embraced them. And I thought she was not very self-aware. She could only wince when realizing she had her own 'one and only'? And the fantasy about the doctor? Very irritating.

Anyway, both generated a strong 'eeeuuuwww' reaction which I thought was probably their intent. :-)

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