Welcome to short story club. It’s good to see you all after so long. Come on in and have a seat. Tucker’s just warming up some pigs-in-a-blanket and Orlando’s on the can. He’ll be out in a minute.
What did everyone think of “Wakefield?” I’ll probably be a little more negative than I typically am, but despite the criticisms that follow I thought it was a pretty compelling read.
The first time I read this story I was infuriated by the ending. I felt like punching Doctorow in the nose. He completely neglected the most interesting part of the story: what the hell would happen when Wakefield walked back through his front door.
But I'll give him credit for keeping me reading. It was a Kafka-esque exploration of an unthinkable "what if" scenario, but he managed to make it plausible. I found that fascinating. But it was the carrot of the ending that kept me going, and when I realized in the last paragraph that there was in fact no carrot... well, I felt used and dirty.
A couple more criticisms:
- his wife never called his cell-phone?
- the whole crux of the story was that he was this lucid, intelligent man, but then we're supposed to believe he survived for months on pristine table scraps from neighborhood garbage cans?
- We're supposed to believe that he did so without being noticed?
- He didn't freeze his butt off until after Thanksgiving? In a New York suburb? In real life he'd be dead by Halloween.
- The secretive aid of the mental patients was kind of hard to believe.
- At one point the mental patients all disappear, then magically reappear to give him a spongebath?
- And his own wife didn't recognize him after an absence of just 6 months or so? Really? Standing eye-to-eye?
I dunno. I'll call it a great story, and it did give me a lot to think about. I'll even say that the ambiguous ending is okay. But I think his editor failed him on a number of simple continuity errors, and I'm afraid they amount to a pretty tall tale when taken altogether.
But yeah, I actually really liked it. What did you think?