Parkroads -- A Review


Wolfe's Comments from the Introduction to Storeys from the Old Hotel

"'Parkroads', a short story in the form of a movie review, is as good a piece as I've ever turned out. After half a dozen rejections, it appeared in Fiction International, a literary magazine published by San Diego State University. I'm happy to say that several people wrote to Larry McCaffery, the editor, asking where they could rent the film."


Framed as a review of an experimental film about the extensive westward journey of a Korean-Chinese family.


  • The story reads like a pastiche of Borges and is full of allusions and references which might be significant. Wolfe's description of the story as being one of his best suggests a deeper meaning, but, if such is present, it is not obvious. One possible reference is Farid ud-Din Attar's The Conference of the Birds, to which there are some similarities. That Sufi story recounts the quest of a group of birds who desire to know the great Simorgh, a phoenix-like bird representing God. Each bird on the quest has a special significance and a corresponding didactic fault. One by one, birds drop out of the journey toward the land of Simorgh, each offering an excuse for why the bird is unable to endure the journey. After traveling through seven valleys, each representing a stage that an individual must pass through to realize the true nature of God, the remaining birds, having achieved enlightenment, find they are the Simorgh and end up residing on the top of Mt. Qaf (or Kaf).
    • Note that the seven valleys matches up nicely with the rumored number of reels in the movie. If the movie does have a seventh reel, this connection perhaps suggests what might be seen in the lost reel (cf. the birds' journey through the seventh valley).
    • One of the early drop-outs in the birds' quest is the duck, who loves water too much to leave it. The restaurant name "Sick Duck" may be a reference to this. The Japanese Prefecture of Tottori has a mandarin duck as its official bird, and the pear blossom as its official flower. So Pear Blossom, cheated of the journey and sold into slavery, may be this story's duck.
  • The story correctly uses factorials to calculate the number of possible arrangements of six and seven reels. The idea that one particular arrangement will yield inspiration is similar to the Borges story The Library of Babel, a library in which every possible book of a fixed letter count is included because every possible arrangement of letters is included.
  • The answer Doris gives for why she has embraced decadence is "Directed by Henry Miller." The writer Henry Miller is famous for novels like Tropic of Cancer that were considered decadent (or obscene) when first published in the 1930's.
  • Wolfe's claim that several people asked where they could rent the film is difficult to take at face value.

Unresolved Questions

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