Pretty from a Distance: (stories)
thesisposted on 01.08.2021, 00:00 by Gina K Frangello
A collection of short stories, Pretty from a Distance deals with characters coming to terms with past demons and decisions, while negotiating sexual and romantic power dynamics and familial relationships. Comprised mainly of stand-alone stories, the collection also includes a triptych chronicling the same characters at different stages of life and the ways in which an intense but destructive affair between a fortysomething attorney and a dancer in her early twenties sends rippling effects into their futures. Due to the power imbalances of age and money, as well as echoes of the young woman’s abuse history, their disastrous ending impacts both the aging attorney’s efforts to single-parent his teenage daughter and his young lover’s ability to forge a “normal” life that does not fetishize her damage. Other stories also concern sexual politics and gender roles: a preschool boy develops an alternate feminine identity; a married couple immersed in the BDSM scene of Washington, DC, moves to a rural community as each privately unravels following the wife’s late-stage cancer diagnosis; a young woman in Greenwich Village circa 1968 must face that, beneath the façade of sophisticated, bohemian intellectualism, the father of her newborn daughter is an addict and saves herself by abandoning them both. In two stories incorporating magical realism, a conjoined twin views her sister as an albatross to sexual freedom only to miss her intensely once a plan to kill her comes to fruition; and a group of longtime friends are haunted by the cloying fiancé of their deceased friend, driving them all apart. The collection as a whole examines the intersection of victimization and agency, maintaining a feminist lens while also interrogating the ways women are complicit in patriarchal systems that oppress them and set them against each other.