Sunday, January 22, 2006

Short Story Sunday 2: “A Stone Woman” by A.S. Byatt

Hot dog, you can read the story for yourself.

I’ve read this story a number of times, and every time I do, it seems more richly crafted to me. I like Byatt a lot. Possession and Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye both sit on my bookshelf, and I read one or the other every year or so.

What is so appealing about this story, then? Byatt, who doesn’t hesitate to lead her reader into the world of magical realism, makes me believe in Ines’s transformation from woman to…well, I gave you the link, go read it.

More than anything I love Byatt’s images. Her descriptive language is precise, and her settings are real to me. “In September they had several days of driving rain, frost was thick on the turf roof, the glacial rivers swelled and boiled, and ice came down then in clumps and blocks, forming where the spray lay on the vegetation.” Can’t you see it? I love that Byatt moves me to Iceland in the second half of the story. I flew through Iceland once, and I cannot wait to go back. The little glimpse of the country that I had was enough to make me believe that her magical story could have happened there.

I taught this to my students last fall, and they did not seem to like it, citing more than anything, the magical realism elements. How about you? Did you like the story? Do you like magical realism? I also wrote about this in terms of Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millinneum (if you’re a writer and haven’t read it, go right now and pick it up). If you like Byatt’s story and want to read more about what I thought about it, let me know, and I’ll send you the article.

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