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This month I am participating in the A to Z blog challenge. http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

The challenge involves 26 posts in April, all somehow connected to the alphabet. My theme for the month is short stories. The Story Factory needs market research, of course, so I will be reading a short story for each letter of the alphabet and trying to learn some new techniques for my own story writing. My lacks seem to be characterization and emotional experience, so I am mainly looking for stories that will teach me those things. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments if you know of an amazing story. Another component of the challenge is the blog road trip, where we visit each other’s blogs, leave comments, etc. While I would like to visit a couple of blogs every day, it is more realistic for me to do Road Trips on Sundays. (Of course, my ongoing, 52 bad story challenge is still on, as well as the 2021 creative hours in 2021.)

Dating your Mom ~ by Ian Frazier

Originally published in the New Yorker magazine in 1978, I came across this story in an anthology by Joyce Carol Oates. Frazier, tongue in cheek, I hope, gives the reader advice on getting mom to dump dad and be your girlfriend. He reminds you that dad has his own mom, and it’s not your fault that dad didn’t realize his mom was the woman for him until it’s too late. 

This story is a light-hearted look at the relationships between mothers and sons. While the relationships between mothers and daughters are fraught with tension, at least according to most friction I have read, the mother-son relationship is more manageable. As a mom of two sons, I do think this is true. I am not sure I would have survived daughters or that they would survive me. 

Frazier’s depiction of “the good life with mom” consists of giant motorized strollers with room for his Big Jim doll, and of course, his typewriter, in-out basket, and nameplate. Gotta work, you know! And then a giant high chair for the evenings. Which could be replaced by the Lazy Boy recliner, come to think of it. 

While fun to read, this story did not fulfill many of my goals for the April Challenge. There are really no characters to explore, and there isn’t much emotion either, except the occasional cringe in the reader because the whole idea of dating your mom is pretty icky. I guess that is the second-person POV that is preventing genuine empathy with the character. After all, it is more of a how-to guide than a story. But Joyce Carol Oates has it in her anthology, so I am determined to see if I can learn something from this. 

I have been listening to the Master Class episodes with Oates, which have been educational. She recommends, for example, that aspiring writers read Virginia Woolf’s diaries for inspiration. As I read them, all I can think of is how much her observations sound like Harriet the Spy. Oates put together this anthology for use with her writing classes at Princeton. Why would she put a piece like this in there?

Maybe to lead the reader to the rest of Ian Frazier’s work. He is a great humorist/parodist, and Oates does appreciate humor, especially dark humor. 

I think my takeaway from this story will be a challenge to write my own parody “how to” this week. Challenge accepted.