House of halls
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] House of Halls is a story collection that investigates the nature of communication between families, friends, and lovers. In the titular story, a jilted lover travels through the desert to a strange museum-like building composed entirely of secondary spaces, where he tries to make a phone call to the woman who left him for another man. "Poles," which is set in a world where energy is generated by the vibrations of bees' wings, concerns a couple whose marriage falls apart over the course of several days. "Nightsuits" tracks three sisters as they set out through the snow to find a meal. "The Flood" follows a deaf-mute man and his daughter as they steer a boat through the newly flooded world, trying to stay alive. The 80-page novella that ends House of Halls, entitled The Orphanage, follows a young Bolivian-American man who travels back to the Bolivian orphanage he was raised in, planning to film a documentary for donors. During the protagonist's stay, a child dies under mysterious circumstances, and the protagonist's role in the child's death comes into question. Like Tim O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods and Joan Didion's Democracy, the novella interrogates the vexed relationship of memory to trauma, both historical and personal. The protagonist cycles over and over through his recollection of the events surrounding the child's death, but the truth remains elusive. In the critical essay that prefaces the story collection, using Walter Ong's ideas of textuality and orality, I argue that what Ong calls "secondary orality"--orality brought about by television, film, and radio--reinvigorates the notion of the folk group in the twentieth century American novel, allowing folk group members to enlarge their sense of what Benedict Anderson terms "imagined communities.".
Access is limited to the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia.