Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Virtually all of Brodkey’s writing involves the extremely involved investigation of memories of his own life. Memories are excavated from the past with a precision and sensitivity that is indulged and then indulged further. In this story, as elsewhere, his style suggests a process of profound, persistent reflection and constant refinement of memory.

In order to suggest, for example, that the past occurrences, when recalled by the narrator, produce in him elaborate emotional responses, Brodkey moves repeatedly from past to present tense, blurring the distinction between what happened in the past and what happens as the narrator explores his love for his father.

Brodkey’s highly idiosyncratic, fragmented style expresses the way in which the act of remembering intensifies the past for the narrator and transports him to euphoria. Brodkey prevents this euphoria from appearing merely indulgent, nostalgic, facile, or incredible by underpinning it with more mundane elements. For example, at the end of the story, in a skillful touch of bathos, he writes that the luminousness that surrounds the narrator and his father has an effect like that of wearing a simple woolen cap—it is “very dimly sweaty; and it grew, it spread: this light turned into a knitted cap of light, fuzzy, warm, woven, itchy.”


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bawer, Bruce. “A Genius for Publicity.” The New Criterion 7 (December, 1988): 58-69.

Bidney, Martin. “Song of Innocence and of Experience: Rewriting Blake in Brodkey’s ’Piping Down the Valleys Wild.’” Studies in Short Fiction 31 (Spring, 1994): 237-246.

Braham, Jeanne. “The Power of Witness.” The Georgia Review 52 (Spring, 1998): 168-180.

Brodkey, Harold. This Wild Darkness: The Story of My Death. New York: Henry Holt, 1996.

Dolan, J. D. “Twilight of an Idol.” Nation 262 (March 25, 1995): 35-36.

Kermode, Frank. “I Am Only Equivocally Harold Brodkey.” The New York Times Book Review, September 18, 1988, 3.

Mano, D. Keith. “Harold Brodkey: The First Rave.” Esquire 87 (January, 1977): 14-15.

Weiseltier, Leon. “A Revelation.” The New Republic 192 (May 20, 1985): 30-33.