Saturday, November 5, 2011
Photo: Eugene O'Neill on Wikipedia; portrait by Alice Boughton
So Eugene O'Neill's only published short story is about drunks. As shocking as that is, it's not as shocking as the uneven writing here--real sentence clunkers, if I may say so. Like many of mine, in fact. But he's Eugene O'Neill, though of course he wasn't until he very suddenly was. We expect more from these guys. They shouldn't write like...us.
The story comes from the way one of the characters--a reforming drunk who's given a job at a local paper--says that he'll get something done "tomorrow." That day never comes, until it very suddenly does. The story's interesting in a few ways, though "interesting" does not always mean "good."
First, it's O'Neill's only published short story, so you have to read it. Second, you can see echoes of the O'Neill tone here; it's not fully established, but it's there. Sort of like a shadow. And it's an unflinching look, though not as jaw-droppingly direct as in his plays. The depressing outlook and the hopelessness is there, too, as is the defeated look in the mirror at one's own life. All the happiness that you expect in an O'Neill piece.
And it's mediocre, which gives the rest of us some hope.
This is another installment of my quick reviews of short pieces sent to me from the people at the Library of America, which makes handsome, high quality books from high quality works. You get a book made of your work from these people, your importance is forever cemented. Some of the books can actually be affordable, too. For the previous installment, a piece from The New Yorker's Susan Orlean, go here.