“He never got away with anything, he thought. If it wasn’t an officer of the law pulling him over, it was a ticket in the mail, the indisputable evidence of his vehicle flying past a camera at many miles over the speed limit. What such a person might eventually ask himself was why he felt a need to break the rules, tell lies, have things to get away with. Why couldn’t he, in some definitive way, exhaust or outgrow his childish defiance?”Why, indeed? And it is clear in the end that he he can’t, and that he isn’t just lying to others but also to himself. As much as I liked this story and Nelson’s languid style, I thought the ending hit a slightly false note. While I believe that he’s going to keep deceiving himself and others, the disjunctive in the last sentence seemed too flip a way of showing it – or else it wasn’t.
November 19, 2007: “Or Else” by Antonya Nelson