Still cold, cold, cold for my neck of the woods. I can only weep at the thought of my next utility bill.

I'm still reading The Corn Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates. None of the other stories has packed the wallop of the titular entry. "No One Knows My Name" was similarly disturbing, but there was a whiff of gratuitous, histrionic tragedy to it that blunted its early promise. I was relieved that the mechanism of the tragedy wasn't what I expected, but the tragedy itself was so viscerally uncomfortable that I wanted to close the book long before I reached the conclusion. I didn't want to see what my bones knew was coming.

"Beersheba" was tepid LIT2200 banality for me. I don't really care what happens to a sexist, self-pitying child molester.

"Fossil Figures" interested me because of its dark, dysfunctional disabled/non-disabled twin dynamic. There was more ugly truth in it than I suspect most people would care to admit, and I identified with Edward to an alarming degree, hunched in his wheelchair in his lonely house, scribbling his art and reaching out now and then with the tenebrous, ephemeral fingers of the Internet. And the juxtaposed imagery of the twins in utero and in final repose was an elegant, haunting touch.

"The Death Cup" was a disappointment. What I thought to be a tale of justice as a dish best served cold fell apart at the climax when the virtuous twin has a few quaffs of scotch, decides his asswipe scamming, philandering, abusive, rapist and thief of a brother had the right idea after all, and wonders why he ever spent a minute giving a shit about anyone else when it never did him any good. After all, his obscenely rich uncle left them equal amounts in his will. What good is being good if you're not rewarded for it? Alas, before the good twin can put his new outlook into practice, he smashes his late uncle's Rolls into a semi and tumbles off the highway, consigning himself and his brother to a fiery fate. Oh, huzzah. Goodness and hope corrupted.

An argument can be made that the virtuous twin got wasted in order to have the guts to kill his brother, but it doesn't read like a man plucking up his courage and deliberately ramming a big rig. Rather, it reads like a nervous prig tossing off the fetters of morality, only to mistakenly stamp on the wrong pedal. Alastor was too much for timid Lyle to overcome. He surrendered, only for fate to claim them both. In a way, it was a mirror image of "Fossil Figures" and it might've had greater impact for me if it hadn't followed on its heels.

Two stories remain. I wonder how they'll shake out.


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