Monday, August 8, 2011

Invisible Life – Kent Nelson

It’s funny – well, funny in a strange way.

This is just the type of story that M would use as an example if we had a little quarrel over the “type” of story I found pleasure in reading.

Yup – it’s depressing as hell, and as Carver promised, he included a story that shows us what it is like out there in real the world.

This was a great story, one that I could relate to on some levels. One that pissed me off, frightened me and generally aroused a whole set of deep emotions.

And that’s precisely what a good short story should do.

1986 – just past the midpoint of the decade. I was in high school by this time.

As I read the story, I thought back to what my life was like in ’85 and ’86.

A major turning point in my life. A point where I really started to pay attention to – my life.

Things mattered, friends mattered, girls mattered…life was new and fresh.

The story fits the period.

And interestingly enough, it seems to fit nicely into today’s world.

I think there are a great many of us out there attempting to find out where we belong. It’s not like years ago where you were 30 and pretty much knew where our lives were headed for the next 35 years. Today, young people are waiting to get married until they are older, waiting to have children or not have children at all, going back to school for a second or third degree, and changing jobs. Layoffs are happening and folks who are 55 are discovering that they have to transition into a whole new line of work to pay for their kids who are just entering college.

The young people who are waiting are perhaps smart in what they are doing. The big decisions, the big moves right or left are done without the burden of being in a “traditional family” situation. Maybe this is a good thing, a safe thing – at least for “the family”

Of course, when my father decided that he wanted to devote his life to work, and make family secondary, the calendar had just flipped over to 1980. He had a wife and a couple of kids, a house, car, decent career.

Dropped it all and moved into a one bedroom row house in a suburb of Philly.

It’s the selfishness in this story that pisses me off. It reminds me that it exists out there and the act of being selfish causes great ripples in the pond of life.

What frightens me in this story? I suppose it’s the instability and lack of the typical family structure is the most. It’s scary because the events in this story can happen, and they happen every day. What happens when a person’s mind just switches…as if their mind jumps the tracks but rather than tumbling over the cliff into a massive pile of crushed iron and steel, the train continues forward slowly causing damage while also almost unknowingly damaging itself.

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