I’m not as concerned about the endings or how people interpret them as I am in showing a change or shift—by the end of the story—in the characters’ hearts. Also, I think open endings require a little more work of the reader; that, when a scene or story is left open, the reader gets to imagine for him/herself how things might’ve turned out.
“Humor helps the heart to open. And heartfelt laughter leads us towards greater connection with those around us. If you can find a way to share humor with others, then there’s an openness towards greater listening and compassion. With the serious topics I write about […] there’s a way such stories can calcify the heart if one isn’t careful. I noticed this in my teaching—if I’m just giving my students the disturbing facts about humanity without humor, it can lead to depression, discouragement, and a deeper political/social apathy. So, humor seems to restore our humanity to us—it allows us to deal with suffering with a more open heart.”
How do we honor the books we no longer identify with that once felt like the perfect articulation of our being? My strategy for the longest time has been to simply not reread them. But that sort of willful ignorance just doesn’t feel sustainable. There has to be a way to honor what the book once did while still problematizing its contents.
In her well-known TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie argues for the importance of a multiplicity of stories, voices, and perspectives in order to do justice to the fullest range of experience and explode reductive stereotypes of people and places. “Stories matter,” she says. “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and malign. But stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
In Antonya Nelson’s short stories, I find the way time is handled to be intricately connected with how convincing the particular world is that she has created. While I liked many of the stories in her latest collections, Funny Once (2014) and Nothing Right (2009), there are some I enjoyed more than others. This is, perhaps, to be expected, but what stands out to me about the stories I liked best seems to have to do with memory and how it is recreated.