My name is Carolyn Updegraff, and I’m from Hominy Oklahoma. I went to high school at Upper Arlington High School in Columbus, Ohio. I’m the youngest and only girl in my family, with two older brothers. My intended major is nursing, but I want to minor in some form of creative writing.
“I hated the Gallo brothers, Ernest and Julio, whose jovial faces beamed from the labels of their wine…I meant to go out there and tell Ernest and Julio what they were doing to my father, and then, if they showed no mercy, I would kill them” (p.196). Under the Influence: Paying the Price of My Father’s Booze, by Scott Russell Sanders, is the most moving short story I’ve ever read. Scott Sanders relived his father’s struggles with alcoholism, and wrote of his own personal struggles that surfaced as a result of it. He described himself as a workaholic, who dove into his writing as a way to escape the shame and responsibility he felt for his dad’s alcoholism. Scott’s constant work led to his own son feeling the same since of helpless that Scott had felt towards his father, which is what led Sanders to write the short story. Sanders felt that if he wrote about his father’s alcoholism and all the turmoil is unleashed on him as a kid, it will “light what eats at (him)… so that (his) own children may be spared” (p. 203). That is a pretty admirable reason to write such a personal story.
The thing that struck me most about Sander’s writing was all his one liners. For example, when he compared his father’s personality change from sobriety to intoxicated as a “grisly metamorphoses” like “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” or when he described his neighbor as “high on the bible, and the bible was hard on drunkards” (p. 197 & 198). These one liners kind of jump out at the reader and are very memorable. I also liked how he wove the characterization throughout the whole story. He didn’t just have one paragraph that described his father or his own personality. Instead, he gave you little bits and pieces as you read, so that the picture of the father grows and clarifies as you read along. It almost made you feel like you were living through the memories with Sanders, and each memory cropped up a new side of his father or a new side of Sander’s, himself.