‘American Dreams’ by Peter Carey

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.

The selection:

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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