The best book in which the chronology of the narrative is reversed is Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow. The best movie is Memento.
I wrote the review for Stephen Dixon’s story, “Wife in Reverse,” probably at least a year ago. This isn’t that review.
I like the idea of telling a story in reverse. It is different and gets the reader to think about the way a story can be told, and how it can still be fresh when the outcome is revealed in the first sentence. This is a challenge.
But doing something different can feel gimmicky. Like doing it just to do it. It feels like a college assignment. This story in particular feels that way. I don’t get anything new from it.
I am not a very big fan of Stephen Dixon’s work in general. I liked his book, Meyer, but could never finish any of his others I started.
I want to like more of the short stories I am reading. I guess partly it is a matter of arbitrarily picking stories based on their availability. But you would think that if these are examples of contemporary short story writers, their stories, even random ones, would be worth reading. But maybe Tao Lin had specific stories in mind, stories that did a particular thing he could expound upon.
The book I just finished reading, Wolf in White Van, is told more or less in reverse chronology. And the structure of the novel is exquisite. It isn’t as if the time is actually going backwards, but each chapter gets at a piece of the story that happened prior to the chapter before it. And everything that flows through the novel is a result of the one thing that happens at the end of the book, so there is this building, even though we already know the results, the cause is still climactic and works as an end point.
You don’t get that in “Wife in Reverse.”
WiR is very short, boiling the moments from loss to meeting in terse sentences. I guess maybe it is to mimic the way one might look back over a life and find it fleeting. How when you first meet the woman you will marry, everything is still in front of you, to be experienced. But when you lose her, when she is dead, there are no more memories you will make together. Everything is gone and all you have left is a handful of memories that slip through your fingers.