Tensing Up

[an analysis by Laura Ragland]

In “The Pat Boone Fan Club,” Sue William Silverman takes the reader through her on-going obsession with a singer. The story begins in present tense and includes flashbacks to her childhood when the affair begins. Silverman describes, in the present tense, a concert inside of a church in order to exemplify her current obsession with Pat Boone. She then takes us back to her childhood bedroom, which is a more intimate setting as she recalls the vivid emotions of her connection to Pat and his family. Silverman goes back and forth from the current scene to flashbacks of her remembrance of Pat and his emotional effect on her childhood. She also recalls an earlier concert she attended when she failed to tell him what she meant to express. This story shows Silverman’s emotional attachment to Pat due to her own horrific relationship with her father.

This piece’s tense changes throughout caught my attention the most. The present tense allows the reader to feel more involved in the story, and the flashbacks provide background knowledge. The flashbacks also allow Silverman to tell the reader what she truly wants to talk about, which is her abusive father, without her having to give too many details. Since this story isn’t about her father, she does not want to talk about him. However, he is important because he highlights Silverman’s emotional attachment to Pat. Her earliest attachment to Pat comes when she is a teenager. The intimacy of this moment is immediately noted, as the scene is set with Silverman “curled up on the baby-blue bedspread” of her New York home. The careful attention to detail here—even down to the color of the bedspread—highlights the author’s vulnerability in that moment. The recollections of the exact details draw the reader in, as this flashback captures her intense emotions towards Pat. She remembers feeling as if she tumbled “inside the photograph, we remained static on this one particular day, suspended at 3:40…trapped together, me on the tandem bike directly behind him, leaning toward him.” The use of past tense here captures the moment beautifully because it sets up for a scene at the end of the story where Silverman brings this picture up to Pat in present tense. This is what she always remembered and served as Pat being the “safe father” she always needed but never had.

The present day interaction between Pat and Silverman is interesting as well because upon meeting him, Silverman questions what he has truly represented for her; “Safety?” “Purity?” “Holiness?” Yet she ends up telling him, “[Y]ou were everything.” I find it interesting that she used the past tense here: “were.” It’s as if in her grown up state, she now questions if he really represented anything at all or if he still does. However, on the final page of the story, she concludes that yes, he did offer her hope; “His image. His milky-white image.” This gives him a god-complex in her life, which makes sense seeing as she swore off organized religion after her brutal childhood. As in all of her stories, Silverman shows readers her emotions without specifically telling them, and in this case, she did so most specifically through the use of tense changes.

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