Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Kate Braverman wrote “Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta” as a series of dramatized encounters between the protagonist and Lenny, each involving them more deeply in their relationship with each other. After the initial meeting in the parking lot, there are encounters in the meeting room of the community center, in the basement of a church, in a public park, and in a Bel Air mansion. The more open settings—the park, the mansion’s swimming pool—are appropriate for the fantasies of the protagonist, who envisions skies, rivers, sunsets, and flowers. The dramatic encounters also point up the differences between the woman and Lenny. Lenny’s speech is crude, profane, bullying, and selfish; the protagonist’s is direct, defensive, apologetic, and spare. The most poetic passages are the protagonist’s fantasies, gracefully written passages that are full of color and beauty, a stark contrast to her simple speech.

Braverman places the final scene on Christmas Eve. Although there are other religious references in the story, such as an AA meeting that takes place in the basement of a church, the final encounter between the protagonist and Lenny suggests the Christian virtues that are lacking between them: love, charity, and selflessness. Lenny’s departure takes place on an evening of tall tales about Santa Claus and flying reindeer, an appropriate setting for his final appearance in the woman’s life and for the tall tales he leaves behind.