baa baa black sheep

11.08.2007

Conundrum

Go read the short story in the article here (the story is in the first paragraph, it is only one sentence) (I didn't want to republish without permission), and discuss. I'm interested in what you have to say.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Swistle said...

I wish I weren't first, because I think this is the kind of discussion where I need to react to what other people say. I'll come back later.

8:22 AM, November 08, 2007  
Anonymous Swistle said...

Good thing I left that comment though, yeah? I mean, that was truly a contribution to the conversation. Good thing I didn't JUST come back later, but instead SAID that I was going to come back later.

8:22 AM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger Jess said...

I have a book called something like "The World's Shortest Stories" and they are all 57 words or less. I'm not sure I would consider that sort of thing a story as much as a couple of intriguing sentences. But then I once had a poetry class where the teacher said her favorite poem was one that was only two words long--"grandmother porcelain." It's definitely taking the idea of being concise and having everything be implied instead of stated outright to the next level. Still, I don't get much satisfaction out of it. It reminds me of super abstract modern art--a neat concept, but it always leaves me feeling a little bit confused.

8:26 AM, November 08, 2007  
Anonymous Pickles & Dimes said...

I saw that it's one of the McSweeney's books, and that whole website, for some reason, seems like people are trying too hard. I know there's some really great pieces on there, but for the most part, I'm unimpressed.

I enjoy reading really great short stories, but these meta stories don't do anything for me. Kind of like the artists who paint a tiny dot on a huge canvas and then claim that tiny dot stands for the fall of humanity or some other deep thought.

(Please tell me that you've never painted a dot and J's never written a one-sentence story, because I hate embarassing myself.)

8:59 AM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger Melospiza said...

I'm loving Pickles N Dimes' comment right now: exactly. It's exactly like the dot-on-the-huge-canvas thing. If somebody wasn't presenting it by itself, sort of saying, "What about this? How's this for a short story?", it wouldn't be interesting. It would be a nice opening sentence, maybe.

It makes you think. But only when presented by itself, like that, self-consciously.

And okay [working into my Bigmouth mode, look out], self-consciousness. It's okay to be a self-conscious artist. I have to remind myself of that: ALL artists are self-conscious. But at some point this is the kind of exercise that you need to step away from, or you'll go crazy, and everybody around you will go crazy, and bloggers and blogless stalkers on other peoples' blogs will also go crazy, and somebody will be out there in the dark yelling, Give me a 1200-page novel already!!! Please!

It's possible I need more coffee this morning.

10:47 AM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger heather said...

I'm wondering if you were interested in conversation about the article and thoughts on the "short story" in and of itself, or just the topic of the sentence. Since you said go read the short story, instead of go read this article, I was leaning toward discussing what the "story" was actually about. But if we're really talking the art of these meta short stories... well then I won't get all deep on you!

How about that for a comment that really says nothing at all?!

10:50 AM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger Banana said...

I think the subject of the story is very interesting. I wonder sometimes if that is why some people have children - so they can definitely know if it is something they wanted in their lives. There are a few people I know and love who would probably fall into this category. However, I think it probably represents the minority.
I know for certain that I want to have children, and it's not just so I can cross it off my list. I want to mother little people who are made up of TM's and my genetics. You can tell with most of the bloggers with children that they truly love being parents to their children.
Hmm, it's a very interesting idea.

11:18 AM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger Black Sheeped said...

Yeah, this is sort of funny...I didn't even read the article. I just felt weird essentially retyping a finished work (even a one sentence work) into my blog without publishing permission. I just wanted to hear what you guys thought about that sentence, and the contents of said sentence. Not about whether or not one sentence can be a story (although my husband and I have talked this to death, and we can certainly talk about it here, too!), but about the idea the author presents. (Concisely, in my opinion.) Soooo...how did you feel about the idea?

1:42 PM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger R.J. said...

I disagree with a lot of the sentiment here. People don't care for McSweeney's because they find it pretentious or -- in the words of one of the commenters -- "trying too hard," but, I think the group's experimentation is important and good. Culture moves forward and if we were all just doing the same thing for centuries, we'd all still be listening to Count Basie and Professor Longhair. Both are great, but I also like modern music.

(Moreover, my favorite book of all time was written by McSweeney's founder David Eggers.)

Nevertheless, I think the short story very much speaks to people in our generation. I know for me, I will always say I don't want kids, but there is always a pang in me that Davis' story pretty perfectly puts into words (this is why it's great).

Even someone who fervently doesn't want children has to acknowledge that there may be a lack of meaning in our lives without children. After all, what mark on the world does one make if childless? After s/he is dead, there's not a lot to remember him/her and therefore is, basically, lost to history.

I realize that's a wholly selfish way to look at it and that's exactly why I shouldn't have children. Nevertheless, it is an internal struggle I think about.

(And something, I'm sure, will not be popular with those who have commented. Sorry.)

1:46 PM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger desperate housewife said...

r.j.- I don't think you're selfish, for the record. Not everyone needs to have kids nor should everyone. We all contribute different things to society, and make our "mark" in different ways. The important thing is that you DO contribute, but that certainly doesn't have to mean genetically!
And as for the story/sentence: I really think a LOT of people go into parenthood based on some nagging thoughts like this. As long as you are a good and responsible parent once the child arrives, I don't think the reasons that prompted you to become a parent should matter all that much.

3:02 PM, November 08, 2007  
Anonymous Pickles & Dimes said...

To clarify my earlier statement, I love the short story genre as a whole and I'm also a fan of Eggers, so it's not like I hate McSweeney's and all it stands for, but that I feel its original brilliance has been diluted with imitators.

As far as the story itself, I read it more that the narrator wasn't feeling regret or remorse at not having a child, but rather that she felt she was missing out by not being in the majority; that she was being overlooked by those with children. Does that make sense?

And I fully feel that people can contribute to society without having children. And without suffering from a "lack of meaning." It all depends on what your priorities are, what kind of personality you have, and what goals and dreams you want to accomplish before you leave this Earth.

5:14 PM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger aurantifolia said...

I'm glad desperate housewife replied to r.j.'s comment first, because I think my response would definitely have been less tactful. Let me say that the idea that my life could be meaningless without children of my own is deeply offensive, and leave it at that.

The story? I've certainly read better things at One Sentence. But the idea that we can want things for fear of having "missed out" is certainly valid. But there's so much pressure in this culture for women to have children, and I have to wonder how much of the missing-out fear is externally produced. You need to separate out what you want from what you think you *should* want.

For me, this was really easy. I weighed the negatives and positives, and decided that I have enough access to friends' and siblings' children and to my own "furry children" to give me those warm-n-fuzzy moments, without the lifetime commitment I know I really can't and (when I'm being honest) don't want to give.

9:24 PM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger heather said...

''At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.''
Okay, I just needed that here to look at.

In my opinion I think perhaps the "not wanting to not have a child, or to not have had a child" realization means she probably actually wants one.

I first thought that the "realizes it's not so much that she wants a child" part, when followed by the next part (are you following me?!) makes the first part seem like it's trying to hide the very big truth that having a child is one of the biggest decisions and scariest things to embark on in your lifetime.
I think it is hard to know completely that you wholeheartedly want that, when we know full well that creating and raising a tiny human being can be so unknown. You know?
I always knew that I wanted to have children, and for me when it actually came down to it, that was still the most intimidating decision I've ever made.

But then again, I guess it depends on if she is not wanting to not have had a child for the feeling left out/missing out/overlooked stuff or if she honestly feels she would really be missing out on something big... or someone big rather.

Okay, did any of that make ANY sense? That sentence, er, story is getting confusing now that I've analyzed it so. And it's late.
Just a disclaimer ;)

10:38 PM, November 08, 2007  
Anonymous Swistle said...

Okay, I'm back!

First, it didn't even cross my mind that you might want to discuss the article, or the story format. I assumed you wanted to talk about the content of the sentence, the idea that someone might have children for that reason.

That sentence definitely strikes a chord for me. One reason I keep having kids (IN ADDITION to the reason that I DO WANT them) is that I am worried that I will regret NOT having them. For me, there are two possible outcomes when I'm past my fertile years: (1) regretting having children, or (2) regretting not having more. I've always been pretty sure that #1 wouldn't be a problem, based on the vast majority of people who love their children, are glad they had them, and in fact get positively gooey about it.

I'm more worried about the second possibility, and I'm willing to gamble quite a lot on avoiding that state of mind. I figure, if I regret HAVING children, I'm only out a couple of decades. But if I regret NOT having them, I'm out the rest of my life. I HATE the "oh, why didn't I ____ when I had the chance??" feeling more than almost anything else! But a person who hates the "oh, why did I have to go and mess things up with _____?" feeling more than anything else might come down on the other side of the matter.

8:03 AM, November 09, 2007  
Blogger R.J. said...

Just to clarify, I don't think being childless means you aren't worth anything. I just bring up the question of immortality and having children, on some level, gives you that.

10:22 AM, November 09, 2007  
Blogger Penny said...

O, I wrote this huge thing on the whole "should I have kids" thing and then I read the comments and it's nothing to do with the content! I'm so dumb.

Also, I have no input into short short stories, except to say I don't like them. If I'm going to read a work of fiction I'm going to invest myself in it, and short stories always seem over before I'm ever getting a return on my investment.

2:57 PM, November 11, 2007  
Blogger Penny said...

And now here's my original comment on the content of the article (because SOME people ARE talking about the content, okay!), and I want credit for the 60 seconds it took me to write a whole other response.

What I think of the topic of "whether to have children or not" and various choices surrounding Very Significant Themes like that is this:

It's mental masturbation without orgasm. As in, it's kind of alluring, kind of fascinating to go down that road, thinking of the possibilities and ins and outs but there is no answer to the whole thought process.

I think I must have worked myself up into a froth for a decade or so previous to actualizing my fecundity, and now that I'm a mom with a kid? I don't think I have anything relevant or uncliched to contribute to the population of women thinking about whether or not to go for it. And I hated more than anything that army of cliched responses to this issue, so I will not contribute to that.

If I have anything to say at all it may be this: weighty decisions like having children are like shaving off all your hair and moving to iceland to live in a pup tent. You just have no idea until you're there, and most of the time it doesn't look at all appealing from afar.

2:59 PM, November 11, 2007  

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