A short story I recently read

‘As I Make My Crooked Way’ by Jules Hogan

Read it here in about 35 minutes.

Thinking about intertexuality and the Bible…

I enjoyed this story the first time I read it, because it features an adult character who feels utterly stuck in her life, and that appealed to me as the pandemic has made me feel stuck too. As the story progresses, it’s slowly revealed that the protagonist’s inability to move forward is for much darker reasons than my own, but nevertheless the essence of the story resonates with me.

If you click on ‘Author’s note’ to the right of the story, Hogan says she wrote it during the pandemic, wanting to capture her emotions from that time, which she’s done by putting them in an entirely different context (a good example of what you can do with the concept of write what you know). She also says ‘This was the first time I wrote a piece that started with the title. The paraphrased Bible quote spoke to the comfort and reliability of faith for those who believe, the way that religion promises to smooth and soften all the difficult parts of life, and the difficulty of not having this faith, not having this direction, when everyone around you does.’

I’m not very familiar with the Bible, so didn’t notice the intertextual link the title creates, but her comment interested me, so I investigated. Isaiah 45 (King James): ‘Thus saith the Lord … I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron’ – this quote tells us that God will clear the path in front of Cyrus, in order to protect, help, and guide him. Hogan, however, subverts this meaning with her title ‘As I Make My Crooked Way’ – the protagonist has to make her way, without assistance, taking diversions if she’s not able to clear her own path; she is on her own, with no help from God, her family, or anyone else.

This is a good example of how to use another text to inspire your own writing, if you’re not sure how to use intertextuality: Hogan uses the basic idea from the original quote (needing help), but amends it (not having help; having to help oneself) – she essential writes a ‘response’ to the original idea, one that disagrees with it, and it doesn’t even matter if readers recognise the link to the original text or not; the meaning of the story stands alone.

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