Monday, August 14, 2006

Lost Girls

I've been on a little bit of a summer hiatus, partly due to a busy summer, partly due to my reading novels lately rather than short stories, and partly due to some uninteresting stories in the summer's issues of The New Yorker. Sorry, but I can't fake an interest in an exciting new short story from Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

However, this week we have a new David Means story, "The Spot." I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed; I feel that I've seen this story before from Means--the story of a lost girl, misled by a bad man, engaged in criminal conduct, wallowing in hopelessness. And there's betrayal, always betrayal: in "Sault Ste. Marie" and "Nebraska," the girl betrays the bad man she has taken up with; in "The Spot," the girl (taught to turn tricks by Shank, her pimp/boyfriend) betrays a John by choking him to death with his bolo tie for no particular reason. The John hit her, but the real motivation seems to be that the tie spoke to her:
You know, those cold metal tips kept brushing me, and it was like they were saying, Here I am, yank me.
The tips of the tie (the aglets, for all you crossword puzzle fans) told her to strangle the guy, so she did.

The story winds up at Niagara Falls. The story is awash with water images, and the Falls provide the final one when Shank encourages the girl to walk out too far at the observation point and she is swept over the brink to her doom, echoing another incident in Shank's life when he drowned another lost girl while supposedly in the act of performing a river baptism.

Anyway, at the end of the day, is there much to this except some pretty writing and a bleak worldview? Not especially. But if you're up for some gritty crime fiction, "The Spot" will hit the spot.