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A Review: Oubliette

Updated on February 24, 2016

The title of this flash fiction piece is oubliette, which is an underground stone dungeon that a person would be thrown into, and then forgotten (fanzone50.com).

The Author, David Long (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/long_web_001.jpg).
The Author, David Long (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/long_web_001.jpg).

The Author and the Characters

David Long has a collection of short stories about these particular characters, Peter Chilcott and his daughter Nathalie, along with a novel about the death of the father. Long said that he even went as far as creating an obituary for Mr. Chilcott, and in creating it, he made the man’s life even more real (Treisman). In writing these stories long felt that he had made an entire existence for the characters, and the short stories became small glimpses into their lives (Treisman). “Oubliette” is one of his longer flash fiction works but he felt that it would better show the relationship of the father and daughter, not to mention it was the first time he really talked about the mother (Treisman). Long’s familiarity with the characters becomes obvious throughout the story, and the story is enriched because of it.

Opening...

When you open the October 2011 edition of The New Yorker, and flip to the fiction section, there you will find David Long’s story “Oubliette”. This is a complex but story telling an emotional time between a parent and a child. This story seems to be written for an emotionally mature audience. As said by David Long himself when writing stories of this length (600 words or less) every word counts (Treisman), and he makes sure that in this story every single word, including the title, counts. Within this short amount of time Long captures the emotional complexity of the situation and lets the reader feel like they know the characters inspiring them to dig deeper this is probably because he himself is very involved with the characters. All and all this is a short but intricate, and interesting story that is a pleasure to read.

A Real Oubliette

Synopsis

Oubliette” is a short fiction piece that shows the changing relationship of a mother and a daughter. In the beginning the daughter, Nathalie, directly tells the reader that she is very close to her father Peter and not close to her mother in any way. She does mention however, that it was not always this way. At one point they had a normal loving relationship that progressed into a strange and disturbing one, which leads to Nathalie being locked in her attic until the father returns home.

Although the story is told from the daughter’s point of view it is just as much about the mother who had unknowingly been affected by Huntington Disease. It was an odd case where the mother developed the dementia symptoms prior to the shaking. So with the destructive behaviors being explained the daughter had to take a new look at the reactions her and her father had to the mother’s actions. This discovery did not repair the relationship between the mother and daughter, but it did change it. The disease led to the eventual early death of the mother, and left the daughter with the task of not forgetting her mother.

Photo used in “Oubliette” to represent the daughter Nathalie’s likeness to her father, it creates the actual image so the description uses less words (http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=2011-10-10#folio=117).
Photo used in “Oubliette” to represent the daughter Nathalie’s likeness to her father, it creates the actual image so the description uses less words (http://archives.newyorker.com/?i=2011-10-10#folio=117).

The Review

David Long uses every word including his title in order to fully tell his story. The title alludes not only to the disease that is unknowingly plaguing the mother but it is also referring to the last straw in the marriage of the parents. It helps to create the complexity of not only the story but the character of the mother as well.

Within this story Long does not simply tell the reader what oubliette means, he leads the reader into it. The father tells the daughter in the story about oubliettes, and because she doesn’t know the meaning, she is prompted to look it up. This makes the reader not only want to look up the meaning but it helps to connect the reader to the main character.

In doing this Long is creating a more friendly and familiar voice. When reading this piece it is not only obvious that the characters are deep and realistic but it actually feels like they are friends. All throughout the story Long is using a voice that is informal; this helps to pull the reader in. The more the reader feels connected to the characters the easier it is to get the point across.

The small intricacy and Long’s voice helps to full pull the reader in and makes the story much better because of it. Long makes sure that every word he uses counts and he makes an atmosphere that is conducive to masking the reader want to know more. So now the reader will look up what they don’t understand and in rich the story they already read. All and all this is a great short fiction piece and a must read.

Works Cited

Long, David. Obuliette. New York: The Newyorker, 2011. Print.

Treisman, Deborah. The Book Bench: This week in fiction: David Long: The Newyorker. 3 October 2011. 6 October 2011 <http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2011/10/this-week-in- fiction-david-long.html>. Web.

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