Study Questions for "The Rapid Advance of Sorrow"by Theodora Goss and "Bright Morning" byJeffrey Ford

These two stories continue the departure from the fairy tale emphasis of the early stories in week four initiated by George Saunders's "Sea Oak" and James Sallis's "Two Stories." Like Saunders and Sallis, Goss and Ford create a sense of estrangement either through narrative structure and an entagling of actual geographic location with an imaginary realm [Goss] or through a complication of narrative voice and narrator identity [Ford]. Perhaps these two stories, like those by Saunders and Sallis, will help us to return to clearer definitions of "slipstream" as we enter our final week of classes. Here are a few questions to consider for each of the stories as you prepare for our class discussions:

"The Rapid Advance of Sorrow" [2002] by Theodora Goss

  1. As he relates his story, the narrator sits in a cafe in Szent Endre, an actual city in north central Hungary near Budapest. However, in alternating sections, a distinctly different narrative voice comments on the mythical city of sorrow, or on sorrow as a state of mind. How does this dual narrative voice affect your understanding of the story? What is the relation between Peter's situation and the passages on sorrow?
  2. How would you summarize the situation of the story? That is why is Peter writing the letter to Istvan? What is Peter's situation and what compels his to tell Istvan his story?
  3. Is there a political critique in this story? If so, what is the basis of the critique? Hint: Look up "Trabants" [108]. Consider the implications of all the insurrectonists [and perhaps everyone in Budapest] turning milky white? Why the emphasis on the white?
  4. What is "entropy" and why do the insurrectionists use that word as a slogan? [109, 110, 112].

"Bright Morning" by Jeffrey Ford, initially published in The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories [2002]

  1. We began the course with Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," and, here, Ford presents us with a narrator, himself a writer, who is obsessed with an obscure work by Kafka. Is Ford's choice of Kafka a self-conscious attempt to identify himself as a participant in the developing genre of slipstream?
  2. Kafka's story, "Bright Morning," does not actually exist; it is a fiction created by Ford to support his plot. How does Ford incorporate realistic detail to complicate the relation between fiction and reality here?
  3. What references to actual historical figures and to known published works can you identify in Ford's story?
  4. Why, according to this story, did Kafka write "Bright Morning"?
  5. Who is telling this story? If you briefly review Ford's biography at his website, then look over the listed accomplishments of our narrator [bottom 170], I think you'll see considerable similarity between the narrator's and Ford's careers. This induces us to associate the narrator with the author. How does the appearance of Ford in the story complicate this notion?
  6. How is the last line of the story an iterative moment? That is, where else does part of that line appear in the story?