February 25, 2013

"The Furies"

By Paul Theroux
~5600 words

A man's remarriage to a much younger woman goes awry after his ex-wife curses the union.

Ray Testa is a 58-year-old dentist who marries his hygienist, Shelby, age 31. After Ray's former wife Angie curses the marriage, Ray begins to receive visitations from jilted lovers of his past, all hideously transformed. Shelby is increasingly spooked by the visits and eventually leaves Ray, telling him he looks like the hags.

The story's fable-like quality is problematic in several ways. First, the characters are all completely one-dimensional and unsympathetic, from the jilters down to the jilted. Second, the storytelling is full of clichés. Men are philanderers, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, you reap what you sow, etc. Also, hags look like hags. Even the language of the ex-wife's curse feels tired and stereotyped:
I know I should say I wish you well, but I wish you ill, with all my heart. I've made it easy for you. I hope you suffer now with that woman who's taken you from me. These women who carry on with married men are demons.
Really? This is the best TNY can come up with after a two-week hiatus? If someone can explain to me what I'm missing here, I'd be happy to hear it. Otherwise, I'm inclined to judge "The Furies" rather severely.


Reader poll: I found "The Furies" to be ___.


  1. Agreed. I normally enjoy Paul Theroux's writing, too, so this was a double-whammy of suckitude.

  2. This was my first time reading Paul Theroux's story. I found it disappointed for the same reason. There are many things the author could dig in depth, but the story remains on the surface.