Study Questions for "Sea Oak" and "Two Stories"

"Sea Oak" [1998] by George Sanders

  1. "Sea Oak" includes a number of TV shows with odd titles: How My Child Died Violently and The Worst That Could Happen, for example. What aspects of American culture does Sanders draw upon through his summaries of the content of these shows? What does Min and Jade's fascination with these shows tell us about them? Can you relate these shows to anything currently being shown on TV? To shows that were popular at the time the story was written?
  2. In essence, Min and Jade are represented as idiots with children. How do their comments enhance the humor of the story? Is Sanders enacting some kind of cultural critique through his representation of them? If so, what is he criticizing?
  3. How does the narrator's job participate in the kind of gender critique that we have seen in so many other stories? "Why does Sanders title the restaurant "Joysticks"?
  4. How does Aunt Bernie function in the story? What might be the point of her unrestrained optimism despite the tragedies of her life? How is the ressurected Bernie transformed? What are her plans for the future?
  5. Do you classify this story as slipstream? What elements support your judgment?

 

"Two Stories" [2004] by James Sallis

  1. The first part of Sallis's story is subtitled Telling Lives; how does this title refer to the emphases of this section of the story?
  2. Why, according to Warren, are his biographies successful? What function do they perform for people? See the bottom of page 247.
  3. Why does Justine Driscoll/Frances Frank interest Warren? Why does he ask her out?
  4. The second part of the story is subtitled The Museum of Last Week. What are the connections between the two parts of Sallis's story? Does the second story help us in any way to better understand Telling Lives?
  5. Who is Thorton? To whom is the narrator speaking when he/she says, "Tell me you won't forget me, you said" (250).
  6. Is The Museum of Last Week somehow also about biography?
  7. What literary and film allusions are made in the story? How are Wallace Stevens and Gregory Peck relevant to Warren's life and concerns?
  8. Why does the story end with a package of scars? Does this reference create a slipstream ending?