I want to be fair. I really do. But, “Oubliette” by David Long struck me as a narrow, pat story meant more for MFA-wielding literati, than for a broader audience. For those of you not acquainted with the finer points of language, “oubliette” is a dungeon with a small opening at the top.
The characters, while not two-dimensional, are slightly generic. First, there’s the documentary film director father, who is kind and sympathetic. Second, there’s the beautiful, off kilter mother. And third, there is the scarred daughter who takes after her father, but is tormented by her mother. See them smiling in the Christmas card? Wonderful.
At this point, it may be clear where the story is going.
A) Freakish affair between the father and daughter.
B) Mother goes crazy and locks daughter up in an attic.
C) Daughter runs away and father makes documentary about it.
D) Metaphor for dementia.
E) All of the above.
Okay, so now that we have cleared up that point, the story jumps ahead using the rough transition, “flash forward eighteen months: her parents had split up, her father had become ‘the custodial parent,’ life was proceeding.” The rest of the story contains two more scenes.
We learn what happens to Nathalie’s mom and we learn how Nathalie reacts to her mother’s death. It ends with a late night phone call, because people don’t die during the day, there’s “a dry listless snow…falling,” and Nathalie must begin her “never-ending task of not forgetting her mother.” The writing is fine, but like the falling snow “Oubliette” has a listless quality that makes it seem longer than two pages of prose. For Q&A with David Long, please read the Book Bench. For a more thoughtful review, check out the Mookse and the Gripes.
- An Anonymous Island
- The Dressmaker’s Child
- Night Vision
- A Genetic History of My Grandparents
- The Night in Question
- Cinnamon Skin
- Under the Rose
- Dating Your Mom
- Between Two Wars
- Petite Julie
Sorry, but, you may have noticed “Oubliette” is not on this list. Return to the rest of this cranky review.
You’re indecision does not due you credit. Return to the rest of this cranky review.
“And when it did, though she couldn’t quite see it yet, Nathalie would begin the never-ending task of not forgetting her mother.” Return to the rest of this cranky review.