Magazine article World Literature Today

Scouting for the Reaper

Magazine article World Literature Today

Scouting for the Reaper

Article excerpt

FICTION Jacob M. Appel. Scouting for the Reaper. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Black Lawrence Press. 2014. isbn 9781937854959

After publishing several novels, a volume of essays, and over two hundred short stories in literary journals and anthologies-winning a number of prizes along the way- Jacob M. Appel rewards readers with a collection of seven new short stories. The book has won the Hudson Prize, awarded by the Black Lawrence Press.

The title story is narrated by a teenager who dresses in a Girl Scout uniform (too small), pretending to be eleven, to help her father sell gravestones. She lugs the sample case of different kinds of stone to each house. The pretense that she has just come from a Girl Scout meeting with her father helps establish his credentials as a caring parent. She says nothing, of course, while her father builds on this impression in making his pitch.

The twist in this story, and in several other stories, is that a youth, sometimes narrating years later, realizes that one of his or her parents has had a relationship with another person, and it still matters, even if the formerly beloved is obviously using the parent. This relationship impinges on the youth's own sexual awakening. The youth is at the age when he or she can actively imagine that some just-met person "will become my husband (or wife)."

Fathers loom large in many of these early stories, whether in crisis or impacting the youth's own life. Mothers and marriages are fretful; where they are protagonists, women are older, childless, or with grown children who are distant. They react emotionally, but understandably, to separation from what they know or have chosen, whether it be a longtime yardman or a pet rabbit suddenly gone blind. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.