What Suleri Knows of Storytelling
Michael Talis, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, Autumn 1997
Sara Suleri's style of storytelling is nothing new to us. Like Wolfe and Chatwin, Suleri moves from scene to scene without haste, leaving dense paragraphs and seemingly unfinished ideas in her trail. Clever transitions, oftentimes employing minor details to turn the reader's eye, keep the prose moving at a quick pace, and it is up to the reader to slow down, reread, and put all the pieces together. Yet, according to the following passage, Suleri herself seems to struggle with this approach:
Tom and Tillat tried to behave like friends; they cooked together in a way I liked -- but with me the man was so large that he could conceive of himself only in bits, always conscious of how segments of his body could go wandering off, tarsals and metatarsals heedlessly autonomous. Such dissipation made him single-minded. He never worried about the top of his head, because he had put it behind him. His mother chose his glasses for him. His desires made him merely material: he looked at himself just as a woman looks when her infant takes its first tremulous step into the upright world, melting her into a modesty of consternation and pride. And his left hand could never see what his right hand was doing, for they were too far apart, occupying as they did remote hemispheres of control. Perhaps I should have been able to bring those bits together, but such a narrative was not available to me, not after what I knew of storytelling. . . . 
This passage raises a number of important questions:
- How is it possible that Suleri is
unableto "bring those bits together" if, as we've mentioned, her own writing seems to work this way? What exactly does Suleri know of storytelling?
- What differences between men and women is Suleri highlighting with this description of Tom? Are there any implications for the different responses men and women might have to Suleri's work?
- Do you find Suleri ultimately effective in completing her ideas or, like Tom's two hands, is it all just too far apart?
Last modified 23 April 2002