‘Lobster Night’ by Russell Banks

Lobster Night by Russell Banks, 2000

The magic trick:

Working very hard to connect symbolic elements of the story by the end, but never making it clear what those symbols mean

I like this story. It’s a little bit of a mess. The symbolism doesn’t totally work, I don’t think. It relies on what amounts to a cheat – announcing in the second paragraph that Stacy shoots and kills Noonan – to generate suspense. But I like it nonetheless.

I like the whole lightning doesn’t strike twice thing. Stacy has her lightning strike/gunshot story. Noonan has his bear tearing up his cabin/gunshot story. And they both come back around at the end of the story. It’s all somehow contrived and indirect at the same time. I like that. It’s completely contrived in that the symbols come back around. But it’s not clear at all exactly what those contrived symbols mean. Lightning, gunshots, lobsters, bears, second chances. Who knows?

And that’s quite a trick on Banks’s part. 

The selection:

She sighed. Then smiled back–she liked his touch–and tried again: “No, it really changed me. It did. A bolt of lightning went through my body and my brain, and I almost died from it, even though it lasted only a fraction of a second and then was over. It changes you, Noonan. That’s all.”

“But you’re okay now, right?”



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