The story is a marked contrast to "August Eschenburg." To begin with, it is much shorter and told from the point of view of a specific character. Millhauser's style does retain some of its sense of the fantastic that appeared in the former, but here it appears to play a greater role as emotional shading to a specific moment in a character's life.
The story is of a teenage girl at the beach one day with her parents. She talks to them about books, goes for a swim, thinks about the way the opposite sex looks at her and her own thoughts on sex. As she sits with her family on the beach, they spot a young man at the beach wearing dark clothing, including a hooded sweatshirt. The narrator's dad feels very upset by this, believing the young man has deliberately attempted to draw attention to himself by dressing that way in such a place. But the narrator sees it as a protest against the sun and feels some kinship with the boy.
"August Eschenburg" featured moments when August thought of the moments in his life that seemed to hold special significance and wondered if it was only in retrospect that he had assigned special meaning to a few particular events. "Protest" bears some similarity to those moments, here told as it is happening, without the benefit or distortion of retrospection.
Donald Hall (1928-2018)
3 weeks ago