The Heat Death of the Universe / Pamela Zoline

The February book for the Feminist Science Fiction Book Club at Pilot Books was Pamela Zoline’s The Heat Death of the Universe. It’s a collection of five short stories, four previously published.

Cover of The Heat Death Of The Universe

Although I read all five stories, we only discussed the title story. The discussion helped me understand that story, but the remaining stories remain a mystery to me, at least as far as what happened in each story. I still enjoyed the subsequent stories, but more in a floaty osmosis kind of way. Ms. Zoline associated with the New Wave of science fiction, a movement that tried to infuse science fiction with literary values. She wrote particularly avant-garde works that do not follow a narrative structure. Generally, the more experimental the style, the harder a time I have understanding.

The Sarah Boyle of the story, The Heat Death of the Universe, fits the mold of the housewife as described by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique: bored, unvalued, and not connected with purpose. Her thoughts wander through various things, most of which have little to do with being a housewife and many connected to the end of the universe.

Due to our discussion in the group, I have a general sense of the story. However, I am ill-equipped to write something intelligent that wouldn’t be repeating pieces of the discussion. So instead of giving my own thoughts, I’m going to point you at Mary Papke’s essay A Space of Her Own, from the Justine Larbalestier edited book Daughters of Earth. It’s a quite good piece of criticism, and will give you a much better idea of what’s in the story than I ever could.

Of the rest of the stories, I really enjoyed Sheep the most. No clue how to deconstruct it at all. Throughout the pieces of the text, the narrator counts sheep as they jump a fence. I’m not even sure they are all jumping across the fence in the same direction, or that it’s the same fence. Sometimes they jump in connection with a previous portion of the text, but usually they do not. There are a lot of sheep. As I read, I anticipated the next appearance of the counted sheep.

Beyond those two stories, I shall not comment.

At some point, I should probably write an essay as to why I keep reading these books that experiment with form when I rarely understand them. I would like to understand them. I feel like I’m missing out on something grand. So I keep trying.

2 Responses

More in Books (39 of 167 articles)