Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Heartwired" by Joe Haldeman

Okay, so I don't have a lot of spare time today. As a reuslt, I've picked a pretty short short story to read. Joe Haldeman's "Heartwired" clocks in a two pages and a half pages, and is really more of a sketch than a fully fleshed out story. Haldeman sets up a situation in which a woman, on the eve of her 25th anniversary, goes to a company called "Relationships Inc." and purchases a vial of what is, essentially, a love potion. She is instructed to give half to her husband and to take half herself, the result of which will be that they will temporarily become infatuated with each other, like when they were first together.

After this setup, Haldeman breaks the fourth wall of the story a bit and explains directly to the reader that they are free to imagine any one of "nine permutations" in relation to what will happen next, then gives his preferred ending. It's an interesting technique, as everything is left to the reader. If you follow reader response theory, an immense blank of information is left for the reader to fill in, and how the reader fills in this blank, I believe, can be very telling to their views on relationships. Does she use the vial? Does it work? Does it backfire? The possibilities are numerous. In fact, I havn't counted, but I believe that there are probably more than just nine permutations available to the reader.

I'd like to say more about Haldeman's chosen permutation, and how it still leaves the final results wonderfully vague, but I don't want to ruin it for anyone who might read the story (and they really should read it, by the way). I will say that some of the events imply some interesting things about what the author believes men value in a relationship versus what women value in a relationship, but I'll leave it at that.

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