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Memoir Fiction

The Hare’s Mask, by Mark Slouka


Once in a great while I read a short story published in a mass market magazine that proves interesting and entertaining. Slouka’s story appears in the January 2011 issue of Harper’s Magazine. (It’s available online.)


What intrigues me about this story is its resemblance to a memoirist’s essay. Memoirs are in vogue now, and the shrewd, market conscious writers are likely turning their talents in the direction of Slouka’s story here. It’s mostly narrative, the tone reflective and somewhat sad.

The story, in a nutshell: the narrator – a man – thinks back to his boyhood relationship with his father and how he used to watch the father tie trout flies. The hare’s mask is a certain type of these, aptly described by the narrator. But there’s a catch – to make the fly complete requires a couple of particular tufts of rabbit’s fur, and the boy knows his father had trouble killing rabbits for meals when he was young. Now the boy’s sister wants a rabbit for a pet. Knowing the father’s inner conflict between his desire for those particular tufts of fur and his aversion to killing rabbits is then the crux of the psychological conflict both father and son are here to experience.


One would think that story might be a memoir disguised as fiction – until the story’s climax and denouement. It’s there that the author allows his characters to rise above the humdrum, distancing ending one might expect of memoir. Instead, the ending is poignant, dramatic, as provocative, perhaps as one would expect of a Chekhov ending.


My rating 4-1/2 of 5 stars