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Monday, December 30, 2013

The Empty Chair: Two Novellas

There is a lot to talk about today, kids. This is Bruce Wagner's The Empty Chair. 

In these two connected novellas, an author that has collected people's stories comes across two that are strangely connected. In "The First Guru," a gay man searches for inner peace after the suicide of his young son. "The Second Guru" is a story that temporally occurred before the first but must come second, according to the author, in order for us to understand the connection. In this story, an aging woman named Queenie found herself in more than a few jams as a young woman and sets out on her own spiritual journey in her later years. When the connection between these two emerges, it is simple yet powerful.

I was incredibly taken by the first story, that of a man whose name we never know but whose story is lovely and devastating all at the same time. The phrase "the empty chair" refers to so much both physically and metaphorically, and it comes across so clear in this first novella. I felt that the man was speaking with me in the interview and not with the fictional narrator, and that was the most wonderful part of this novella. While the story is being told in just one place and time, I was able to witness the character arc fill the space fully and deeply. It was a wonderful piece of writing, and I found myself really contemplating my own beliefs while reading this section. A good piece of work will make you think.

I did not find myself quite as happy with the second novella; I found it to be meandering and unclear at times and when I got halfway through the section I realized that I just wasn't getting it. I pushed through, but ultimately decided that I would focus my energies on the beauty of the first section of writing.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Nicole. I have not read 'The Empty Chair', but I would definitely add it to my reading list after your review. As you wrote, it sounds as though it gives much food for thought.
    Diane (http://diane.eklund.abolins.net)