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Friday, April 12, 2013

Reader's Guide for "The Other Celia" by Theodore Sturgeon

Available as an ebook.  Story online.

This deceptively simple story is a heart-breaker.  It begins with a simple man, Slim Walsh, with a simple yet overwhelming desire:  curiosity.  He wasn't looking for hurtful information, but just information.

He's laid off work because a co-worker applied a wrench to his head.  This isn't bad as he gets to snoop in his neighbors' apartments.  One especially odd single woman captures his attention that he stands at her door even to listen.  When she's gone, he sneaks into her apartment to see what's inside.  When he finds a human-sized skin, he bores a hole into her apartment to watch what she does.  When he learns, he has to find what happens if she can't do what she normally does after work as a store clerk, studiously not drawing attention to herself.

What's amazing here is how Sturgeon takes so small an indiscretion and makes it feel criminal.

  1. How might Slim's name fit this narrative?  
  2. Knowing Slim's imperfections, why might the coworker have hit Slim in the head with a wrench?  What might this foreshadow--if not directly?
  3. How does the quote below fit in thematically?
  4. What aspect of this story might be more relevant today than Sturgeon's (and vice versa)?
"[W]ithin the anthill in which we all live and have our being, enough privacy can be exacted to allow for all sorts of strangeness in the members of society, providing the strangeness is not permitted to show."

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