Type of Document Dissertation Author Larkin, Mary URN etd-05282006-124853 Title The Heart is a Slow Learner and Other Stories Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Robert Olen Butler Committee Chair Bruce Bickley Committee Member David Johnson Committee Member Elizabeth Stuckey-French Committee Member Keywords
Date of Defense 2006-05-19 Availability unrestricted AbstractTHE HEART IS A SLOW LEARNER AND OTHER STORIES explores love’s vagaries in settings that range from the Deep South to Alaska. The stories depict relationships between lovers, friends, and family members--especially mothers and daughters. The stories fall into three sections: Living, Loving, and Leaving.
Living shows men and women struggling to find happiness and make sense of their lives. A mother of an autistic child in “Texas Facts of Life” must fend off a deadbeat ex-husband as she searches for a way to communicate with her son. “Millennium” presents a woman so overwhelmed with life that she can’t get out of bed. “Hammer Toes” explores family rivalries in today’s New South.
Loving, the collection’s middle section, further examines love’s vicissitudes. In “Truckin’,” Roy wrangles with a seductress named Lila and a truckload of minks before realizing his wife is the one he loves. The collection’s title story, “The Heart Is a Slow Learner,” is set in Alaska. In it, Fred recounts his struck-by-lightning affair with Honey, the woman who got away—on a sled. Another story features a woman who tells her best girlfriend the details of her affair only to learn that the girlfriend has used the information to seduce the man herself. Loving ends on a lighter note with “Loving Alexander,” the story of a woman’s affair with a 6’2” cat.
Leaving, the final section, opens with “The Night of the Leonid Showers,” the story of a woman mired in a loveless marriage, who discovers a way to loop through her own future and past. In “Falling, or Eden Revisited,” a woman witnesses the dissolution of her neighbors’ marriage. Set in New Mexico, “Guitar Lessons” interweaves the stories of two affairs, one between Chloe and Peter and one between her mother and his father. In “Where Luck Lies,” the hapless and romantic protagonist, Josh, escapes his destructive affair with a femme fatale and finds a truer lady love.
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