Posted in Short Stories

Carolyn Ferrell: Proper Library

Deal Me In 2019 – Week 24

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The last day Rakeem and I were together, I told him I wanted to go back, to school, to everyone. The words, I tried to explain about the words to Rakeem. I could welcome him into my world if he wanted me to. Hey, wasn’t there enough room for him and me and the words?

Interestingly enough, Carolyn Ferrell’s short story “Proper Library” also has no quotation marks – just like last week’s story “The Girl With the Pimply Face” by William Carlos Williams. The lack of quotation marks in “Proper Library” provides just as much confusion, yet, I would say it makes a more positive impact on the reading experience.

short stories century

Just like “The Girl With the Pimply Face”, “Proper Library” is set in New York City, the Bronx to be exact. And while Lorrie (short for Lawrence) narrates the story, it seems his neighborhood and community plays a large role – a role that is amplified by the many characters and many conversations that occur and, yes, the lack of quotation marks.

Lorrie is caught between his love for another boy (potentially a bad influence), his self-induced responsibility for the younger children in his family: brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, and his desire to lift himself out of his family’s situation through continuing his education. He taught himself Math from the “Math 4” book and learns new words everyday.

While it seems Lorrie is finally choosing school, we know too much about his family and community to feel like this will be his final choice once and for all. Too many forces come together in conflict for the reader to feel firmly that Lorrie will do what’s best for himself.

This story is included in The Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike. My Deal Me In list can be seen here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.



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