Tony Earley’s “Charlotte”

I confess that when I began reading “Charlotte,” I rolled my eyes.  I wrote it off as more ‘macho-man’ material.  However, this story has become one of my absolute favorites of everything we’ve read so far.  Earley has managed to imbibe a “sport” that I find ridiculous with charm and personality, a real soul.

Wrestling is fake.  Everyone who watches it knows this.  The outcome, plot, outrageous taunts, and stunts have already been pre-planned.  And yet, somehow, the narrator in “Charlotte” made me believe the story of the wrestlers, describing their actions in a state of suspended disbelief.  The speaker does not truly believe that the wrestler’s stage personalities are real, as he describes the stars zooming off in their fancy cars for their fancy mansions, leaving Charlotte behind.  He knows that Darling Donnis is not really involved in a romantic triangle with the two men who fight over her, and yet he narrates their story as if every violent action was happening in real life and not choreographed expertly.

The suspension of disbelief is a very important element for the narrator.  He seems to find something somewhat tragic in reality, something that wrestling once provided an escape from.  It is interesting how he portrays the “fake” items in P.J. O. Mulligan’s in a negative light, while wrestling is placed on a pedestal.  His excitement in describing the matches reminds me of a child retelling a favorite fairy tale.  And wrestling is a fairy tale here, complete with heroes and villains and a damsel in distress.  This is all nostalgia, of course; the wrestlers have gone, the coach has turned into a pumpkin, and Charlotte is home to the Hornets who hold none of the enchantment that the Southeastern Wrestling Alliance had.  Wrestling was this man’s escape, and I loved how he transformed something that seems like an inane pastime into a magical experience.

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One Response to Tony Earley’s “Charlotte”

  1. John Gregory Brown says:

    Thanks for this lovely, appreciative discussion of the story. “Charlotte” has long been one of my favorites. You might like the rest of Earley’s work as well. Much of it has the same qualities that this story has: nostalgia, quirkiness, humor, and innocence.

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