If you want to read a remarkable piece of writing which really captures what guns are all about, see if you can pick up a collection of stories by Joyce Carol Oates, Faithless, and read ‘Gunlove,’ which I read again last night. If there’s another piece of fiction out there which brought home to me why guns are such a problematic issue in American life, I haven’t seen it yet. And when all is really said and done, the ability of someone with this writer’s remarkable talents to capture the most profound dimensions of what guns represent, goes far beyond what we get from even the most authoritative scholarly research.
The story is narrated in first-person by a young woman who is recalling certain events and people over the course of her life, all of which involve the use of guns. A gun is brandished, a guns is used for self-defense, a gun is played with, a gun is taken to a shooting range, a gun is carried around for protection, a gun figures in a suicide or maybe it was an accident. In other words, every vignette which together creates the story’s text, gives us a quick portrait of all the different ways that Americans think about using guns.
And then there are the guns themselves, described and even named: Bauer 25-caliber pocket pistol, 12-gauge Remington shotgun, a Saturday-night special Arcadia, a Colt 45-caliber Army gun, a Winchester 22-caliber rifle, a Sterling pistol, a 44-magnum, a Colt Detective Special, even a Glock! And the fact that the Glock is actually an AMT pistol makes the whole thing even better because the ditz-brain narrator of this story, who spent her college years at Vassar continuously stoned and/or high, really didn’t know one gun from another. Which is exactly the point. It doesn’t really matter which gun is which.
These guns float through the life of the story’s narrator in the same quick and easy way that her relatives, friends and lovers come and go. At one point, she appears to be getting serious about shooting – goes to a shooting range in Staten Island but finds it difficult to actually pull the trigger and hit the target downrange. On the other hand, she has no trouble buying at last four different oils and cleaning fluids, cleaning patches and rags, various gunsmith tools and other crap. She easily spends a hundred bucks or more on this stuff, takes it back to her apartment, but never actually cleans her gun. She’s the type of customer that the gun business loves.
At the end of the story, she meets up with a sometime lover who gives her a remembrance gift because after a final embrace (in the middle of Central Park, no less) he’s evidently going to clear out of town. She goes back to her apartment, unwraps the package and of course it’s a gun – a 9mm Glock. She thinks for a minute about possibly giving it up but she can’t. She ‘loves’ her gun.
Of course the gun which she loves isn’t a Glock at all. She describes it as having a stainless steel frame but Glock never produced any guns except with polymer frames. So she has absolutely no idea what she is talking about but she’ll never get rid of this gun. Perfect.
By the end of this story, what you come to understand is that this ditz-brain has absolutely no idea why she loves her guns. But one reason for her obsessive gun infatuation which is never mentioned is any concern for her 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ She couldn’t care less about the 2nd Amendment.
And here’s the dirty, little secret about guns: Nobody else cares about the 2nd Amendment. Gun owners will tell you in no uncertain terms that they support the 2nd Amendment because otherwise they might have to admit that their decision to own this lethal consumer product has nothing to do with any kind of reality or necessity at all. They love their guns because guns are fun. And if you don’t believe me, just read this penetrating story by Joyce Carol Oates.
Download and read the story here.