The Other Place by Mary Gaitskill, 2011
The magic trick:
Showing the narrator’s complete self-absorption by making every single sentence about him
The narrator of this story is many things – some bad, some possibly even good. What isn’t debatable though: he is obsessed with himself. Gaitskill does a remarkable job of making every single sentence about him. Even when he talks about his son or his wife or his mother or anyone really, he only mentions them to make a comment in relation to himself. It’s self-absorption on a grand scale.
The formula changes only near the end when the narrator recounts the story of his night with the woman who picked him up as a hitchhiker. It’s only her ability to pull him out of his self-absorption and into consideration of someone else that alters the situation. And that’s quite a trick on Gaitskill’s part.
You might think that the videos and the guns were part of it, that they encouraged my violent thoughts. But Chet and Jim were watching and doing the same things, and they were not like me. They said mean things about girls and they were disrespectful sometimes, but they didn’t want to hurt them. Not really. They wanted to touch them and be touched by them. They wanted that more than anything. You could hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes, no matter what they said.