Dan Piepenbring at The Paris Review:
“Guest” first appeared in The New-England Magazine in 1835; it’s hard to imagine that any magazine would touch it today, and not just because it contains such phrases as “pertinacious fancy” and “mountain nymph.” In its strident allegory and anticlimax, it breaks almost all the storytelling conventions we’ve come to cherish, or at least to believe we should cherish. Its characters are sketched-in at best; its foreshadowing is eye-rollingly bad; the few details it offers are often extraneous; and it has nothing in the way of a narrative arc. It’s a flat line that drops off at a ninety-degree angle.
Its Netflix synopsis might read thus: “When a stranger visits a family at a quaint New England mountain pass, they all die in an avalanche.”
Or: “After a candid discussion about their dying wishes, a modest family and their ‘frank-hearted’ guest are buried alive in a freak landslide.”
Or: “An anonymous man announces his intent to make a name for himself, only to perish suddenly in circumstances that doom him to be forgotten.”