7.20.2007

The WATER WORKS by E.L Doctorow

I’m not sure I know what happened here. This is a very short story. It begins, “I had followed my man here.” Then the narrator, I’m assuming a woman, gives not a physical description of her man, but tells the reader about his passion for the Water Works and what why it seems to matter to him.

It is a time of house drawn carriages and cobblestone. I know that we are not in the present. The story takes place in the past. What past, I’m not sure. The narrator tries to drop clues, but I’m just not able to put the pieces together. Crazy.

Why then do I like this story? I like the point of view. I like the way the narrator seems to be present in the scene, a person, but none of the other characters ever address her or really notice that she is there. Well, that is until the end. When she is noticed, some joke about firemen and gravediggers is made.

This 5 to 6 pages short story humbles me. I’ve read it a few times now and I know that there is something going on, but I just can’t break through. I want to say that it is about women and how they were present, but absent, expected to be apart of the background. However, after writing it out, I’m not sure and I’m most likely wrong.

If you can find this story, please read it and then chime in on what you think is going on. I just don’t know.

Doctorow, E.L. “The Water Works.” Lives of the Poets. New York: Random House, 1984. p19 – 24

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