review

THE MIDNIGHT ZONE – LAUREN GROFF

The Midnight ZoneThe Midnight Zone by Lauren Groff
My rating: 5/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

WELCOME TO DECEMBER PROJECT!

boilerplate mission statement:

for the past two years, i’ve set december’s project aside to do my own version of a short story advent calendar. it’s not a true advent calendar since i choose all the stories myself, but what it lacks in the ‘element of surprise’ department it more than makes up for in hassle, as i try to cram even MORE reading into a life already overcrammed with impossible personal goals (live up to your potential! find meaningful work! learn to knit!) merry merry wheee!

since i am already well behind in my *regular* reviewing, when it comes to these stories, whatever i poop out as far as reflections or impressions are going to be superficial and perfunctory at best. please do not weep for the great big hole my absented, much-vaunted critical insights are gonna leave in these daily review-spaces (and your hearts); i’ll try to drop shiny insights elsewhere in other reviews, and here, i will at least drop links to where you can read the stories yourselves for free, which – let’s be honest – is gonna serve you better anyway.

HAPPY READING, BOOKNERDS!

links to all stories read in previous years’ calendars can be found at the end of these reviews, in case you are a person who likes to read stories for free:

2016: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…
2017: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…

scroll down for links to this year’s stories which i will update as we go, and if you have any suggestions, send ’em my way! the only rules are: it must be available free online (links greatly appreciated), and it must be here on gr as its own thing so i can review it. thank you in advance!

DECEMBER 4

I tried to tell my children a cautionary tale about a little girl who fell into a well and had to wait a week until firefighters could figure out a way to rescue her, something that maybe actually took place back in the dimness of my childhood, but the story was either too abstract for them or I wasn’t making much sense, and they didn’t seem to grasp my need for them to stay in the cabin, to not go anywhere, if the very worst happened, the unthinkable that I was skirting, like a pit that opened just in front of each sentence I was about to utter. They kept asking me if the girl got lots of toys when she made it out of the well. This was so against my point that I said, out of spite, Unfortunately, no, she did not.

this is a less gross/boring version of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game*, which is about what happens when a woman handcuffed to a bed in a remote cabin for sexxytimes becomes trapped after her husband has a fatal heart attack and she has to be resourceful and clever enough to escape but also resilient enough to endure her own thoughts and hallucinations as her body is deprived of the things a body needs and starts to go a little mad. its main problem (for the reader – the main problem for the character is the whole ‘being handcuffed to the bed’ thing) is that while Stephen King is great at writing many things, the interiority of a woman’s mind isn’t one of them.

Lauren Groff, however, is tremendous at it. this story (which also appears in her most recent collection, Florida), could have been novel-length, and i don’t think i would have felt bored by it at all. the situation is a little different – a woman is vacationing with her family when her husband is called away for a couple of days and she is left alone with her two young sons (and a puppy) in a wild part of florida where a panther has been seen stalking about. she falls off of a chair while changing a light bulb (the details of which make it much less dumb than that sounds), hits her head and sustains a concussion, trapping her in a very Gerald’s Game scenario – she can’t really move, she can’t send the kids for help, there’s no way to reach her husband or medical assistance, and unlike king’s lady, she can’t (or shouldn’t) sleep, so things get really tense as night falls and she’s responsible for more than just herself, and, we learn, so ill-equipped for that responsibility even on her best days.

and even though it is a mere fraction of its length, and as fragmented and meandering are this character’s thoughts, it’s a millionbillion times better and more intense than Gerald’s Game. there’s so much depth of characterization, so much symbolism and psychological weight, so many questions left unanswered in the best, most mentally invigorating way. i like that there’s no way to know how this experience changed this character (or if she even has the option to change, depending on how you read it).

it reminded me how much i love her writing, and i really need to stop staring at Florida in the mighty stack o’ books and get to it ASAP.

read it for yourself here:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20…

* or, with the possible-panther, a combo of Gerald’s Game and Cujo.

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