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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 506

Ticking Off the Clock

  1. In David Barber’s “Off Line,” what appears to be the connection between literary criticism and literary production? Between writing and literacy?

  2. In B. Z. Niditch’s “Impromptu,” what is the poem about? The poet? Class clowns? Entertainers and athletes? Something else?

  3. In Sarah Ann Watts’ “Spilt Life”:

    1. The account is a story about a story. Does it summarize an ancient myth?
    2. The narrator is a murderer. Is there any kind of poetic justice in his fate?
  4. In Jack Bragen’s “Mr. Washburn’s Last Resort”:

    1. The atmosphere is unbreathable outdoors. Is the setting of an environmental apocalypse really necessary? At what point is the difference between the indoors and outdoors atmosphere apparently forgotten?
    2. Mr. Washburn thinks a lot about sex. Judging by what he does, that is not what he really wants. What does he need?
  5. In Chris Bailey’s “The Reckoning,” the characters all receive a kind of telepathic “countdown” of their repeated actions:

    1. In reality actions may be similar, but they are never identical. What defines a repeated action? Are the repeated actions necessarily bad?
    2. Why might repeated actions be chosen for the “countdown”? Why not some other measure of time?
    3. Do the characters learn anything from the “countdown” process?
    4. What entity might be sending the telepathic “reckonings”? Is it good, evil or indifferent? Is the process an exercise in existential awareness, sadistic teasing, or a practical joke?
  6. In Arthur Davis’s “I Have Become the Leopard,” the narrator is finally reincarnated as a leopard after many previous existences as other animals:

    1. In what way does the story resemble the classic fable, such as those of Jean de La Fontaine or those of Antiquity, such as Æsop’s?
    2. How does the narrator feel about living as a leopard? Does he know of any other animals who are also aware of reincarnation?
    3. In what way does the narrator’s life as a leopard resemble that of his previous incarnations?
    4. Has the narrator ever been a human being in a prevous incarnation? If so, how much does he remember of the experience?
    5. How do the poachers differ from the other animals?
    6. Reincarnation is impossible to prove or disprove, of course. Rather, it is a moral allegory. What does it imply?

    Responses welcome!

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