Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The New Yorker: "The Teacher" by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

The endings of short stories, they say, are supposed to be inevitable and yet surprising. Or something like that. They are NOT, however, supposed to be predictable. And yet didn’t you see this one coming a mile a way? Didn’t Dr. Chacko smell like a fraud from the moment he arrived on the scene, the stench only growing worse as the narrator let him deeper into her life? From the moment her good silver was mentioned, didn’t you know he was going to steal it? Or maybe it was SO predictable that the predictable outcome is actually unpredictable. In any case, other than fluid prose (which is hardly a positive attribute, since a New Yorker story damn well better have fluid prose), I don’t have anything good to say about this story.

July 28, 2008: “The Teacher” by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala


priscilla f cutler said...

Knowing how demanding it is to write a story, I feel awful as a writer, a reader, a human being, confessing that I feel like I wasted the time I took to read this one. The bio note states she's published oodles, like 17 novels, or something, so that is my only consolation in making this confession; guess everyone has an off day.

Anonymous said...

wow. I loved the story. I think I just liked the characters and how the main character changed somewhat. And I liked the descriptions of the places. Of course he was a fraud--I that that was obvious from the beginning.

Heather said...

I liked it, too - it was a slow story, but I was in the mood for it. I haven't read anything else by the author, though.

Paul Epstein said...

I did not find the story predictable, but I'm sure I'm a much worse reader than Cliff is.

My response is positive on the whole, but there is one detail that I found utterly unconvincing -- it seems unlikely that Dr. Chacko would confess to having bought the Ph.D.

This seems typical of New Yorker stories -- a good story (in my opinion) left with unconvincing details that should have been edited.

Reminds me of my previous complaint about a New Yorker story which reported speech by "Italians" without giving any indication of why the American narrator was able to understand it.

Paul Epstein

agar0549 said...

can you comment what is the main idea of the short story