Sault Ste. Marie by David Means, 2004
The magic trick:
Shifting the reader’s focus from the plot to the characters
Very good story today. It’s a little bit like a more literary Elmore Leonard. The Michigan setting only makes that comparison even more appropriate.
I want to take a moment to appreciate the story Marsha tells the narrator in the motel about her friend. She tells a very compact little biography – from beauty to abuse to overdose.
Interestingly, you can remove her tale from the overall story and lose nothing of the plot. So why is it here? What does it add? A lot. To be honest, I’m not totally sure what it means, if her friend ever really existed, or where the symbols point. But I know it shifts my approach to the story from the action to the characters behind the violence. And that’s quite a trick on Means’s part.
The story – and the way she told it to me, early in the morning, just before dawn – as both of us slid down from our highs, our bodies tingling and half asleep, turned me on in a grotesque way. To get a haro-on based on a story of abuse seemed wrong, but it happened, and we made love to each other again, for the second time, and we both came wildly and lay there for a while until she made her confession. – I made that up, completely. I never knew a drifter named Charlene from Canada, and I certainly wouldn’t sleep with a fuckface reject like that. No way. I just felt like telling a story. I felt like making one up for you. I thought it would be interesting and maybe shed some light on the world.
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characters and story can be both real and unreal, just as MC is waking is both sleep and wakefulness, the way Sault Ste. Marie is both Canadian and of the U.S..Many things in this story have dual citizenship and are of indeterminate natures. Means mentioned after a reading that he may have been thinking about macro examples or analogies of quantum physics, that perhaps these were legit manifestations of nature’s statistical substructure. Perhaps Means and the bunch of us had too many beers.