The Third Tower by Deborah Eisenberg, 2018
The magic trick:
Leaving nearly everything about the story implied
We’ve been looking at stories from Deborah Eisenberg all week, and at least two prior features – “The Flaw In The Design” and “Across The Lake” – are downright stubborn about not plugging in backstory. Their plots are islands. All you get is what you see. Everything else is imagined. It’s a lot of pressure on the reader. Or considered another way, it’s a generous show of respect to the reader. I really enjoyed both stories, and both largely for the words left unwritten.
But here we come to a more recent Eisenberg story, 2018’s “The Third Tower, and I must admit I found the sentences unspoken to stack themselves into a barrier to entry. Perhaps that was the titular third tower. It’s just too much for me. I’m sorry.
The story takes us to the hospital with our teenaged protagonist, who requires some kind of intense treatment. What’s wrong with her? Not clear. What’s going to happen to her? Not clear. Why is the doctor so impatient? Not clear. Where is her family? Not clear.
Ultimately I added a final question to the list: Why should I care? Not clear.
But, if you like your story’s 80- to 90-percent implied, you will love this one.
And that’s quite a trick on Eisenberg’s part.
The noise of the night’s fireworks is still in her ears. The moon is there or not there, behind the metal shutters.
They’ve strongly suggested that she rest today. And that’s just what she plans to do. She’s calm enough now to fall back asleep, she thinks, and when she wakes up in the true day, she’ll be careful to take it easy. Maybe just lie around and play some games.
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