SH Flashback: “A Private Unbinding of Time,” by James Allison

A new entry in my weekly Strange Horizons retrospective:

A Private Unbinding of Time,” by James Allison
A slow-building lyrical story about loss and grief and things falling apart. (Published in 2001.) (3,000 words.)

"The whole thing is tearing apart," Nathan whispered. "Feels like there's nothing to hold onto."

"That's why we have to stick together," said Maggie. "Help each other through."

"Most of the time I think I'm over it. Then I see things more clearly."

(See also the full list of Flashback stories.)




I feel like stories that literalize metaphors are often a little too direct and on-the-nose; but when the literalization is done well, as it is here, I really like it. Perhaps especially when the story involves projecting a character's subjective feelings onto the world; I don't know how far back that technique goes, but at least as far as Shakespeare. (Not comparing this story to Shakespeare, of course.)

At any rate, in this story the slow collapse of the protagonist's world works well for me, and (as with several of the other Flashback stories) the ending makes me cry every time I read it.

...I feel a little awkward about having now done three Flashback stories in a row about grief and loss and attempts to recover from same, but they felt appropriate; this can be a difficult time of year for me. Next week will be something in an entirely different vein.

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