“Great Rock n’ Roll Pauses” is a short story by Jennifer Egan that explores themes of aging, nostalgia, and musical obsession. The story revolves around a man in his 60s named Ray, who is a lifelong music lover and former rock critic. Ray becomes obsessed with the idea of “pauses” in rock songs and begins to collect them. He becomes increasingly isolated and disconnected from the world as he fixates on these musical moments. The story ultimately culminates with a final, cathartic pause that allows Ray to come to terms with his past and find a sense of peace. Through its portrayal of a man grappling with his own mortality and the fading of his passions, “Great Rock n’ Roll Pauses” reflects on the nature of time, creativity, and the human experience.
The conflict is primarily internal and revolves around the protagonist Ray’s struggle with aging and the fading of his musical passions. Ray becomes fixated on collecting pauses in rock songs, which leads him to become increasingly isolated and disconnected from the world around him. The climax of the story is the resolution of this conflict as Ray experiences a final, cathartic pause that allows him to come to terms with his past and find a sense of peace. Through this moment, the story suggests that the resolution of personal conflict can come from a deep connection to art and creativity.
The protagonist, Ray, experiences significant inward change throughout the course of “Great Rock n’ Roll Pauses.” At the beginning of the story, he is consumed by his obsession with collecting pauses in rock songs and is disconnected from the world around him. As the story progresses, his fixation deepens and he becomes increasingly isolated. However, at the climax of the story, Ray experiences a final, cathartic pause that allows him to come to terms with his past and find a sense of peace. This resolution of his conflict represents a significant shift in his inward state, from one of obsession and disconnection to one of acceptance and resolution.
The use of a diagrammatic form in the story helps to express these elements of plot and character by visually representing the progression of Ray’s inward journey. The shifting shapes and patterns of the pauses that Ray collects mirror the shifting patterns of his thoughts and emotions, while the increasing complexity of the diagrams reflects the growing intensity of his fixation. In this way, the form of the story serves as a visual representation of the central themes of aging, nostalgia, and musical obsession.
“Great Rock n’ Roll Pauses” by Jennifer Egan is a story that effectively utilizes diagrammatic form to express its central themes and to shape the reader’s experience. This use of form inspires me to consider how I can similarly use arrangement of type to create structure, sequence, emphasis, pacing, and rhythm in my own diagrammatic story.
For example, I could use the size, color, and placement of type to create emphasis on certain elements of the story, while using negative space to create pacing and rhythm. I could also use the arrangement of type to visually represent the progression of the protagonist’s inward journey, just as Egan does in “Great Rock n’ Roll Pauses.” By considering how form can contribute to the overall narrative experience, I can craft a diagrammatic story that effectively conveys its themes and characters.