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Enchantment Short Story Discussion of ‘Night Visions’ by Thaisa Frank

Welcome to today’s discussion of “Night Visions” from Thaisa Frank’s collection of short stories in Enchantment.

After the last discussion in October for “The Mapmaker,” Thaisa Frank mentioned that a companion set of stories was “Night Visions.”  As a group, we decided to visit again with Frank’s family of characters.

This short story is broken down into several sections as well:

“Afternoon in Kansas”
“My Face”
“Origins”
“The Kiss”
“The Enchanted Man”
“The Store”
“My Mother’s Voice”
“Door into Dark”
“Country Boy”

I hope everyone has had a chance to read all of the sections for today’s discussion. I wanted to start everyone off with a few things to talk about.  Please be aware there could be spoilers.

1.  Night is referenced in “Night Visions” in reference to the mother and the night’s inability to recapture her.  Does this reference to night say something in particular about the narrator’s feelings toward her mother or more about the mother’s personality and behavior.

2.  In “Origins,” how does the absence of a past for the family present itself in the narrative and what impact does this have on the narrator?  Why do you think the past is so absent from the present?

3.  Brueghel’s picture is mentioned several times — a reference to a family of Flemish renaissance painters — one is of a wedding feast and another seems to be of a snowy landscape.  What theories do you have about their significance?

OK, that’s enough from me.  Let’s get this discussion started…

Also, if you want to discuss another short story in November, let’s pick a date that we’re all available and see what story we all want to discuss.

  • Anyone interested in reading another story for discussion in November? Say after the American Thanksgiving holiday? Let me know if anyone has any preferences for stories or dates.

  • I mostly felt a sadness for the girl in this story, especially in Origins, with the family starting from scratch every morning and not being able to depend on her mother in the way daughters need to. To see her want to be so precise and like her friend, to need to control the chaos in a way, was heartbreaking.

    • I like the myriad layers in these stories. I think they bring out a lot of discussion points for a book club with these stories alone.

  • I think that as one sees at the end–for example, in The Country Boy, no one hears these cries for help. But the child is becoming a woman and has her own strength. The affair with the doctor is mostly for comfort—an attempt to find a refuge. Now that you’ve talked to me about this, I’m thinking of revising this a bit, particularly becuase I now have a trilogy describing the diaspora of the family. The mother is a bundle of mixed messages and I think that if it’s read in proper sequence, it becomes clear that the mother “gave” the daughter to the doctor as part of her own twisted confusion. Thanks to all of you for reading this. I’ll be back online before midnight to check in. Serena—I hope your family visit is good for you!

    • Wow, wonderful insight. Thanks for the clarification about the daughter and doctor’s relationship. I’d love to read the trilogy when its ready for sure. I’m invested in this family. I think reading these in sequence would help.

  • The darkness of the mother’s personality linked to the night was chilling for me. I felt sorry for the daughter, that she was so disconnected from her mother. The roller coaster of emotions for the girl as the mother made breakfast like a normal mother, but had returned to bed after her hopes were up, made my stomach twist. I took the daughter’s affair with the doctor as a cry for help, but also a bit of revenge on the mother for not acting like a mother.
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    • I was so upset for the daughter when she came home to find her mother back in bed. I wonder if all of these disappointments have culminated in the actions of the daughter, particularly the relationship with the doctor. But I still wonder who is going to hear this cry for help…especially since the mother is so encapsulated in the night.

  • The past is absent from the present in Origins because the family is so chaotic there’s no sense of a history, of something to lean on, of (in modern terms) anyone having the child’s back. The impact on the narrator is that she starts the day without any sense of basic ground. . So in a sense, the narration implies that it’s the presence of solid parents that give a kid a sense of origins, a sense of coming from a source that keeps flowing. She notices other families–in much the way many deprived kids, too–and although in reality they may have many dark secrets, she envies them and believes they have access to a solid world. She wants this sort of access so badly that she never gives up hope. So the one time the mother is up and gives her breakfast, she believes she has origins—and this belief implies that a sense of origins doesn’t take much for this child. But once again the mother’s affiliation with sleep and darkness re-emerges. It’s as though the mother is allied iwth the night, has an almost magical relationship with the night. And the child is trapped in daylight

  • Thanks for looking that up, Serena. This is probably another painting that the parents had about a wedding feast. It’s interesting that Breughel had the insight to see woman as disconnected from the celebratory aspect of marriage. It makes me want to know more about his life. (Many of his paintings have an irony to them. Now I want to study them!)

    • I found so many of his paintings online. They were all subtle about the irony, but I like paintings that you must take your time with…to see what is going on in the background or the mind of the painter.

  • #3 – Brueghal’s painting really stuck out to me as I read this story. It’s referenced a lot – and to me, represented an escape, or a different chance at life for the narrator/her mother. It reminded me a lot of how the map was used in the other short story we talked about – The Mapmaker.

    To me, a lot about this story, especially when talking about her mother, was about regret and dissatisfaction. “…she looked ahead to places she would never reach and back to places she had never been” especially evoked that feeling for me as I read through this one.

    I have to say I think I liked this one even more than The Mapmaker. A lot of the same ideas are explored – complicated family life, the relationship between mothers and daughters that never really understand each other – but this one, with its focus on the future rather than the past, stuck with me more.
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    • I also thought that the author managed to make the mom/daughter storyline similar to the others in that there’s a dissonance between the two (and I believe they are the same characters?), but the narrator’s approach in Night Visions seems to try to speak more for her mom/understand her than the previous one. She tries harder to communicate with/for her taciturn mom then rather the frosty attitude they have for one another later in life.
      Jessie´s last blog post ..Review: Etiquette for the End of the World by Jeanne Martinet

    • I agree that the painting is very similar to the ideas behind the Mapmaker.
      Serena´s last blog post ..Enchantment Short Story Discussion of ‘Night Visions’ by Thaisa Frank

      • Thanks so much for your comments and interest. I hadn’t thought about Breughel’s wedding feast when I wrote about the picture. The picture is actually ironic—and perhaps now, looking back, I should have described it in more detail–although the irony comes through nonetheless. The relationship between the parents is the opposite of any wedding feast–and actuallly is depicted in the painting. Breughel’s painting has a clot of people dancing in the foreground of the painting–living it up. The long feasting table is in the background, and the bride sits in the center, looking forlorn. He’s depicting the dissonance between notions of marriage and marriage itself.

        • I looked up the image online, but didn’t see any dancers: http://bruegelpaintings.com/Village%20Wedding%20Feast%20Bruegel%20Painting.jpg

          I saw the pastry chefs…? And there is a woman in the back, who I assume to be the new wife and she looks so disconnected. It reminds me of the mother.

        • About the role of night: I think it’s about both the mother’s personality and the role of night. Night is when the mother comes to life. It also is where dark things happen–her attempt to jump out of the car. It holds promise for the daughter when she stays up late, listening to her mother read, turn pages. But as much as she tried to unite with her mother’s affiliation with a night (a night that doesn’t save her, by the way)—she’s not able to. Night is where her mother lives while the rest of the world (and of course the child) are trapped in daylight.

          • I did note that the night seemed to be where the mother lived, but it was somewhere the child could not. I find that separation interesting. It’s almost as though the mother is intentionally leaving the daughter separate from her, either out of protection or something more.