“The Oram County Whoosit”

This week’s weird fiction being discussed over at The Weird Tradition group on LibraryThing.

Review: “The Oram County Whoosit”, Steve Duffy, 2008.

Cover by Obrotowy

I liked this story. Not only does Duffy provide two well done narrative voices but some evocative historical details and also a bit of a rumination on the myth of the American West.

The story starts out on a rainy day in Oram, West Virginia, a coal mining town.

The narrator is Fenwick, a newspaper photographer, waiting for the arrival – along with the town’s dignitaries — for Horton Keith, a famous writer who will become even more famous in the intervening years between 1924, when this story takes place, and the 1980s when Fenwick is telling it. 

Keith has come to town to investigate a report of a something found in a lump of coal from the mine. After meeting Fenwick and finding him suitable company, the ambitious Keith points out the local miners trudging off to work and then briefly mentions his days as a newspaper reporter in San Francisco and, on the quest for adventure, how he joined the Klondike gold rush. He juxtaposes the joy the prospectors approached their work, even though neither he nor many others found significant amounts of gold, with the attitude of men who will see pay, however small, for their work. The prospectors were dreamers like him, and they sensed, with the closing of the American West, this was their last chance for adventure. 

Discussion then returns to the reports of the “toad in a hole” as Fenwick calls it. He’s skeptical of such reports and attributes them to either fraud of the Fiji Mermaid variety or newspapers desperate for stories. 

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