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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 297

Cousin Tablecloth

  1. In Gabriel Timar’s “African Poverty,” at least one of the keys to overcoming poverty is said to be ridding Africa of its dictators. If Africans themselves can’t do that, how can non-African governments do it without recolonizing the continent?

  2. How does Bertrand Cayzac’s Floozman differ fundamentally from the garden-variety comic-book superhero?

  3. On one hand, John Grey’s “Henry” depicts bourgeois horror. How might the poem make the transition between cause and effect; that is, what might underlie people’s being transformed literally into furniture? On the other hand, how might the poem be given a more innocuous interpretation?

  4. Mel Waldman’s “Divided Judaism”:
    1. Civil wars occur within territories; can one occur within a community such as a religion? Is a figurative usage appropriate, or would a term like “schism” or some other term be more accurate?

    2. The “war” is referred to as “violence” and “open fighting,” complete with “battles”; yet has anyone heard of armed conflict between Jewish sects? At one point, the strife is referred to perhaps inadvertently as “friction”; might that not be a more accurate term?

    3. Waldman quotes Freedman as saying that “the divides between the existing branches of Judaism [...] are growing so vast, so irreconcilable, that in time those branches, like Christianity after Martin Luther, will be divergent faiths sharing a common deity and a common ancestry.”

      Exactly that kind of schism has already occurred within Judaism. When did it happen, and how?

      Why is the schism between “Orthodox and non-Orthodox” Jewish communities quite unlike the difference between Catholics and Protestants? Hint: similar differences occur within both the Catholic and Protestant denominations.

    4. The essay need not cite Voltaire, who devoted his life to tolerance; rather, what might the author have drawn upon in the Hebrew tradition to plead for tolerance within both Judaism and any other community?

    5. Aside from the personal, does the essay add anything to Karen Armstrong’s The Battle for God?

  5. What does Martin Green’s “The Button-Pushers of Mars” imply about terrorism at the turn of the 21st century?

  6. In “Last Chance,” why might E. S. Strout have named Budweiser, of all things, as the sailors’ beverage of choice? If it’s supposed to represent an all-American beer, how does it bear out the adage that any story referring to current events is out of date before it’s written?

  7. In Slawomir Rapala’s “Knight in Shining Armor,” how does Iskald — despite a leg crushed by a falling horse — manage to overtake and overcome Laela’s betrayer? Does he need to use his injured leg at any point?

  8. Both Brin Manoogian-O’Dell’s “Blurred Borders” and Bosley Gravel’s “Jocko Homo,” in issue 293, start from a similar premise: employee alienation in a corporate “cubicle culture.” How do the two stories differ in structure? What does each accomplish?

  9. What actually happens in Bertil Falk’s “Portent”? Arthur Rimbaud led a very colorful life after abandoning poetry at the age of 18. Although he did visit Sweden with a circus, he never sailed to America. How might the play allude to events in Rimbaud’s life?

Responses welcome!

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