The story of “Girl with Curious Hair” is like a magnifying glass. “Girl with Curious Hair” plays with distance–the distance between characters within the story, the distance between the speaker and the reader, the distance between the reader and the subject of the text. In particular, “Girl with Curious Hair” removes the usual, normative, comfortable distance between objects and between people. As a result, the story creates a closeness that induces immense discomfort for the reader as well as the characters.
In “Girl with Curious Hair,” the speaker narrates in a way that extracts the context from the story. In The Broom of the System, when Lenore critiques the relationship between the story and the context in the Fieldbinder story, she argues, “Shouldn’t a story make the context that makes people do certain things and have the things be appropriate or not appropriate? A story shouldn’t just mention the exact context it’s supposed to try really to create, right?” (335). To Lenore, a reader, a story should create context–an environment, background, setting so that a word, a sentence, a passage can be understood.
“Girl with Curious Hair,” however, neither creates nor simply mentions context. Instead, the story removes chunks of context that would help the reader understand a phrase or passage and inserts them into the story at a later point, making the reading experience much more difficult. For example, the story opens with: “Gimlet dreamed that if she did not see a concert last night she would become a type of liquid” (55). Upon reading this, the reader has no clue who Gimlet is, how Gimlet is related to the narrator, or what is going on at all. The narrator hesitates (in the form of a comma) and then proceeds to offer a bit of context: “therefore my friends Mr. Wonderful, Big, Gimlet and I went to see Keith Jarrett play a piano concert at the Irvine Concert Hall in Irvine last night” (55). In thrusting information onto/into the reader without first providing the surrounding picture or circumstances, the text becomes similar to a magnifying glass and difficult to grasp.
Furthermore, the speaker bombards the reader with an endless array of details. The details, however, instead of moving the story forward, keep the story static–as if the story would remain frozen, forever scrutinizing the hair of each character and the effects of LSD on each character. By presenting an infinite series of detail and imagery without first offering a larger picture or explanation, the story radiates the effect of a magnifying glass–blowing up the details while cropping out the context. As a result, the story creates an uncomfortable and unusual proximity between the reader and the substance of the text. The reader is not brought into the story from far away, but immediately placed next to and among the characters, assaulted with their curious behaviors and peculiarities.
Likewise, distance collapses within the confines of the text: between the characters in the story. Each moment of contact or moment bordering contact engenders a poignant discomfort for one character or another. For instance, Cheese putting his hand on the sleeve of the narrator’s sportcoat makes the narrator uncomfortable, “for his fingernails were unclean” (68), and in a later moment, the narrator removes “Cheese’s hand and unsightly nails from the wrist of the sleeve of [his] sportcoat” (74). Here, Cheese seems to have a propensity to touch the narrator, to make contact, to eliminate the distance while the narrator cringes at the lack of distance and the unclean touch of Cheese.
Similarly, the story progresses toward a dwindling of distance between Gimlet and the girl with the curious hair. Gimlet, like Cheese, has the desire to physically grasp another–only in Gimlet’s case, a girl’s hair. In “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way,” D.L. writes, “‘The subject of a story is what it’s about; the object of a story is where it’s going'” (261). In “Girl with Curious Hair,” the girl with the curious hair seems to be both the subject (according to the title) and the object of the story. The story ends with an image of the girl with the curious hair. Moreover, the final image is compounded with Gimlet’s hands ultimately reaching and “moving in the girl’s radiant hair” (74)–an arrival at convergence and erasure of distance. And this closeness is disturbing and discomforting and unpleasant.