Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Virgin of Small Plains/Car Trouble

This week I chose Car Trouble for my short story. It was written by a man, Jas. R. Petrin and I wanted to contrast it with Nancy Pickard, who wrote The Virgin of Small Plains. I am continuing my quest to find definitive differences between men and women authors. I have to admit, this week I think I found some distinctive differences. The Virgin of Small Plains is a story about a small town, and the intricate relationships between family members, friends, and community members. It involves a murder and long-standing cover up. It involves betrayal on several fronts. Pickard is very descriptive of the town, surrounding areas, and each character. She spends a lot of time describing relationships between people and their feelings about events and each other. There is a separate "mysterious" appearing or legend of the dead girl, who is said to have healing powers for all who visit her grave. Car Trouble centers around a sick man, Skig, who is trying to protect a women, Eva Kohl who is a type of friend to him. There is not a lot of information about the extent of their friendship. It appears that she is Skig's age, or a little older. She cuts his hair, and lives close by. They have an easy and friendly relationship as shown by the laughter shared at the beginning of the story. Eva shares that she is selling her car and buying a different car on lease. Skig thinks she is being taken advantage of but she won't listen to him. He takes it upon himself to talk to and intimidate the car dealer, Happy Dan Ducher. In the beginning paragraphs of this story it is clearly insinuated that Skig has some type of criminal history, and is or has been a dangerous man. He is easily able to intimidate Dan, and convinces him to go down on the price and make a fair deal to Eva. When Eva goes to make the deal, Dan is murdered while she is there. Briefly she is a suspect and he gets her a lawyer. He is also a suspect, but has an alibi since he had been at the doctors office. There is a receptionist , Ms Russell, who worked at the car dealership. He saw her having an arguement with a scroungy looking man, DeLuca and was suspicious of their dealings. Through various ways, he found out where she lived and her relationship with Happy Dan, as well as her relationship with the scroungy man. He intimidated her into telling him about DeLuca's car theft business and he determined that DeLuca killed Dan. During this story, Skig tried to protect Eva, even got her a lawyer. He also tried to protect Ms. Russell once he heard that DeLuca was hitting her. Although he was sick, he was not afraid to confront a younger and more fit DeLuca, and during a fight between them, DeLuca was killed. This story did not have much about the feelings in these relationships. There was some insinuation. There was also not a lot of information about Skig's life that made him able to intimidate others so easily. He did not commit any crime during this story, but used his reputation to get information and to make Happy Dan treat Eva fairly. This more direct approach to the facts of the story, with little information about feelings and emotions, or details about past seems a little more like the style of a male author. I liked this story but have some ambivalence about it. I was a little intrigued that i did not know everything I wanted to know about Skig. It kept me wondering. At the same time, I was a little bothered with the lack of information. I was not sure what part his illness played, except to give him an alibi. Maybe it was his illness that made him want to make sure Eva was alright, and to find the murderer. But a lot was left to the imagination. I liked The Virgin of Small Plains much better. I really liked the story development and the setting was integral to the character's interactions. I think Car Trouble could have taken place in a large city or mid-size town. Setting did not seem to be important to this story. I find I like a more fully developed story and have liked the novels better. But if I want a shorter read, I would not turn away a short story.
I have learned a lot in this class about the effect of setting, class and race on a novel, and the importance they may play. When used well they can make the story feel more real, and pull the reader into a time in history, or geographical place, or society that the reader may not have had experience with. I have also really enjoyed reading other's thoughts on the discussion board and the blog.


  1. CAR TROUBLE sounds like an interesting read. It seems to have quite a few characters and information for a typical short story, which according to those we've read hasn't really been the case. Most of them have been far more intimate in setting and character, which may not be true of all short stories. I wonder if anyone else in the town was aware of Skig's past, or if he just had an intimidating personality? Now I'll have to read it to get a taste of the mystery within.

    I have been really interested in reading the comments of everyone else in the class and thinking about our reading from differing viewpoints. It has also been more eye-opening to think about literature on a different scope, and to be open to the effects of class, race, and gender in my reading.

  2. It saddens me that not as many young people don't enjoy reading books as in the past... the ability to really immerse in a story is such a luxury these days where everything is spelled out in a movie. Over the holidays my daughter, oldest son, and wife read the Twilight series; it was really fun to listen to them get into the story and characters and actually have long and engaging conversations together. I really enjoyed the "Small Plains" book for the same reason, and am enjoying the discussion boards around it. I agree with you as to the value gained from the discussions. :)