THE NEW POP LIT READING CHALLENGE CONTINUES
COMPARISONS OF TWO RECENT AMERICAN SHORT STORIES
A summary of rounds one through three:
Round One judging was done by William Rushing.
Round Two judging was done by Michael Maiello.
Round Three judging was done by Tom Ray.
This round– Round Four– is scored by Michael Kealan Moore.
Information on the Reading Challenge is here.
The Big Question: What do you think?
“Two households, both alike in dignity.”
by Michael Kealan Moore
Gallup begins with thoughts and tones set by textual allusions and song lyrics—we are reminded of TV scripts, where, at times, writers rely heavily on the mood set by music; Netflix’s Pose for example. Jones’ Some Came Running brings a struggling writer and we lead into the mouth of “Just Another Silly Love Song” (JASLS) and enjoy the story of a slow to marry, air-cowboy. To say this is a “better reading experience” lays in the easily digested events, where the reader can immerse the self in the action and plot. The craft and construction is of professional stock as we go through the phases of the protagonist’s moves across a chessboard towards love and marriage. Joseph Campbell’s work comes to mind in both construction and characterization; Brown as the Mentor (also noted as “My mentor, General Brown”), the first date as “all is lost/dark night of the soul” etc. Further into the characters, they could be in any successful Film/TV romcom: blue-collar workers lookin’ for a better life, and love. The impact of JASLS shows us that it is not another silly love story but one with grace, action, adventure, grit, and American truth.
“Ghoul” is a beast of a narrative which injects us into Postmodern tropes. This text takes time to simmer and cook in the mind, which adds to its genius—readers left to hack away stone to discover the diamonds underneath. We are reminded of Jean Baudrillard’s realms of the hyperreal in Saunders’ words and world, the characters working in a cursed Disneyland of sorts; this may well be the 13th floor of hell—but it is not, it is a possible America where one cannot speak the truth at times, otherwise they are kicked to death by their friends and lovers. We can summarize in Baudrillard’s words that this is a “desert of the real itself”. Is this a “better reading experience”? I will say it is a difficult read where the wheels of cognition are forced into motion, but ultimately we reread to fully comprehend. The craft involved in this text is above normal and within its construction we the readers are brought information through dialogue, notes/letters, body language, and action itself; where all scraps make the greater absurd whole. On the characters, I found them well crafted in that they are submerged in their own phenomenological experience of the hell they exist in—we are of course kicked back to Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Man in The High Castle, and Brave New World; particularly the human “savages” living out of reach. On the first reading the impact is entirely contrary to a second reading, the first leaving us somewhat confused—the second impact is sobering.
Both Ghoul and JASLS outperform each other in their respective styles; we can imagine fans of Postmodernism swooning over George Saunders while one who appreciates contemporary American writing will find joy in Nick Gallup’s words.
Michael Kealan Moore holds a BA in Writing, English & Classics, an MA in Writing, and a number of qualifications in Psychoanalysis. He has worked in AI, Film/TV and Publishing for a number of years.