American Dreams by Peter Carey, 1974
The magic trick:
A plot reveal that opens up the story’s symbolism and meanings even more than it opens up the plot
Personally, I think this story overstays its welcome by a few pages. It carries on beyond what I thought should’ve been the end (before the American Dreams commentary) and moves on to themes and ideas I didn’t expect or particularly want. I know, I know, who am I to say? But that’s just how I feel. Anyway, the third two-thirds of this story are brilliant. It really is a super-cool idea.
The premise is familiar: a neighbor doing something strange and mysterious. What could he be up to?
The reveal is fascinating. Not only is it surprising, it’s a powerful symbol, opening up the story’s metaphor and meaning.
And that’s quite a trick on Carey’s part.
Bald Hill towered high above the town, and, from my father’s small filling station, you could sit and watch the wall going up. It was an interesting sight. I watched it for two years while I waited for customers who rarely came. After school and on Saturdays, I had all the time in the world to watch the agonizing progress of Mr. Gleason’s wall. It was as agonizing as a clock.
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