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This is the second time I’ve read the title story of this collection, Binocular Vision. I was struck by how much my understanding of the story changed, or in some cases didn’t, over the course of a year. The last time I read this I found myself frustrated, she gives us so little bout the narrator, but this time I didn’t find myself trying to fight the story like I had. There are several possibilities for why I didn’t fight the narrative this time around, I was in a better mood, I already knew where it was going, after reading so many of her stories I’ve become somewhat more adept at understanding her style, I could go on but that would be besides the point.

Looking back on my previous reading I think what I found myself fighting most was the lack of information we get on our narrator, specifically in regards to gender. I had forgotten that the gender had been left out, I mentioned to one of my roommates that we were reading the story and in her recollection it was a bout a young boy. In my memory it was about a girl, and I thought it was interesting that even after having discussed, a year ago, in class that the gender was never mentioned we had both remembered something else. I think that in not giving us too much about the narrator Pearlman creates an experience for the reader that is quite different than usual. By not giving us the information and by placing it in the past tense the reader is able to concoct any identity for the narrator and his/her family. It’s almost as if Pearlman wants us to put ourselves into the place of the speaker.

One of the challenges I face as a writer is that I sometimes try to leave out information because I don’t feel that it is essential, for instance I rarely want to name my narrators. However at this point I cannot do it successfully. My envy at Pearlman’s ability to pull of this daring trick is part of why I admire this particular story so much but it’s also part of why it isn’t my favorite. In my failure to successfully utilize this same technique I have instead developed a love of gratuitous and specific detail, which is why my favorite novel is 100 years of solitude, and because of that this story, which gives us so much while giving us so little, frustrates me to no end.

At the same time I understand perfectly why this story, although it’s not the one I would choose, is the title story for this collection. After reading 24 of the stories in the collection, I specify because although I doubt it the last 10 could be wildly different, there is a set of goals that I now feel I can see Pearlman trying to reach in her stories. Each tale has a way of unsettling the reader, she takes the stories so far and then derails them from where you expect. In Binocular Vision I think we get the best example of what I feel is the essence of a Pearlman story.  We start off thinking that this is a story about a child, and then we think it is about the elderly couple she/he has been watching, and then we realize that it is about both. The story hovers at the edge of normalcy; the events that take place are everyday ones. Yet there is something more to it than that, something lurking just underneath, and I think that this is my favorite thing about Pearlman; she never has to make it explicit. She never tells you the “big, ugly truth” you just get the sad glimmering edge of its fins before it slips back where it came from and you’re left with what remains.

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