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On the surface, the people that frequent Playland in Ron Hansen’s short story of the same name seem happy and having a good time – just the way all the rich people in The Great Gatsby do – on the surface. Playland is part real and part imaginary and the people who visit tend to be older teens or young adults. People who may not be all that world weary, yet. However, it’s set in the 1940’s after World War II and Gordon has difficulty walking from an injury during the war. So some may not find Playland quite as amusing as Gordon’s girlfriend Bijou.
Then Bijou’s Cousin Frankie shows up to slowly reveal the sinister and the shallow of Playland. Actually, Bijou, herself, can cover the shallow part while Frankie has a handle on the sinister:
Frankie scrooched forward on his bar stool. “You oughta see things with my eyes. You take Bijou, for instance. She’s a dish, a real hot patootie in anybody’s book, but she ain’t all she wrote, Gordo, not by a long shot. You and Bijou, you come to Playland, you dance to the music, swallow all this phonus-balonus, and you think you’ve experienced life to the hilt. Well, I got news for you, GI. You haven’t even licked the spoon. You don’t know what’s out there, what’s available.”
Again, just like Gatsby, the story takes on some noir qualities right up until the end – in which it takes on more Stephen King characteristics with a little bit of horror and gore.
All in all, I found “Playland” to be a fun story I would recommend.
This story is included in The Best American Catholic Short Stories edited by Daniel McVeigh and Patricia Schnapp. I read it when I selected the Nine of Diamonds for Week 49 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.