BAILLIE, THE INCIDENT REPORT
an incident happens in a library, the librarian must fill out a report.
Baillie’s novel is a collection of reports that strays into memoir territory.
Report 5, for example, is about morning anxiety. Every morning in the warmth of my bed, as I surface from sleep, fear
–small as a cherry stone, cracks open behind my breastbone.
Report 45 is about meeting a young man in the park, reading a children’s novel.
If somebody had asked me, I would have
said that a young man with a gentle expression and missing a finger, reading a
children’s novel, resting before his next shift driving a taxi, was as good a
person to fall in love with as anyone, but that I was not interested in more
suffering. Yet she falls in love and suffers.
Man, one of the regulars at the library, makes his appearance in several
Incident Reports: He never borrows
books, CDs or DVDs, never surfs the net or nervously taps messages, hunching
over the keyboard, as the others do…He comes with one purpose only: to make
multiple copies of the documents riding in his suitcase.
he leaves behind notes. They all concern one subject: Verdi’s Rigoletto and the
death of the hunchback’s daughter. She’s
too young to know danger, one of his notes says. Ah, poor hunchback, with no right to happiness. But this time I won’t
let any harm come to her. If one of those men should so much as touch a hair on
her head, my gorgeous daughter with the freckled hands…I dropped the paper. I
closed myself in the bathroom and stared at my hands. They were as they had
always been – slim, pale and covered in freckles.
WINK, A REFUGEE CRISIS
don’t normally write about short stories, but this one (NYer August 20) got to
me. The language is exquisite – ironic since the protagonist is a writer who is having a hard time writing.
aid the process, he goes
cross-country skiing, his skis
chattering over the grooves of a snowmobile track. He meets a musher with
his team of dogs resting, ears back,
with wry grins on their lean faces. Then they range out, zigzagging, negotiating a scent stream. Sometime he goes
running. His pounding feet set off the
mergansers at the water’s edge, a thrashing mass of windmilling legs and
timeless observations are disrupted by social science cant that jerks you back
into the present: cognitive dissonance,
people drawn together by trauma, talk about the refugee crisis with a woman
friend who has worked in the camps. They have sex rather coolly, in the no-nonsense way it’s done today or at least
the way in which it is depicted in contemporary writing. I kissed her only once, he says, and didn’t really want to kiss her anyway, but I was born in the
Midwest, and they teach us there to try to be good people, and to kiss during
sex. Is that so?
why bother to ask that question? After all, fiction is the most shameless genre. It makes no attempt to avert its
#AMREADING GAEL FAYE,
is the coming-of-age story of a boy living through the Rwandan civil war, but
also of his personal memories and musing about the marriage of his parents, a
French father married to Hutu mother.
happy couple on their wedding day. What
music! On their wedding day, a careless rumba escaped some out-of-tune guitars
as happiness crooned cha-cha-cha numbers beneath a sky pricked with starts.
But twelve years later the reality of everyday life sets in and their carefree beginnings transformed into
a rhythm as tyrannical as the relentless ticking of a clock. Now they had
to cope with children, taxes, …growing
uncertainty, rampant banditry, dictators and military coups and, the
cruelest blow: it turned out they hadn’t
shared dreams, merely illusions. True, each of them had nurtured a dream, but
it amounted to nothing more than their own selfish hopes, with neither of them
ready to fulfill the other’s expectations.
couple fight. Raw emotion transformed
Maman’s voice into a torrent of mud and gravel. A flood of words, a roar of
insults filled the night. The noises were moving about our property: I could
hear Maman howling below my window, then destroying the car windscreen. After
that, silence, until the violence began rumbling again, all around. I could no
longer tell what was French and what Kirundi, what was shouting and what were
tears, whether these were my parents battling or the neighborhood dogs fighting
to the death.
a party is still a party and makes you forget your troubles: The trumpet was doing its breathless best
to follow the rhythm set by the percussion. Prothe and Innocent were hitting
the stretched drum skins in unison, their faces strained, a thick sweat sliding
down their gleaming foreheads. The guests’ hands marked the beat as their feet
hammered out the counter-rhythm, kicking up the heavy dust in the years. The
music was as quick as our throbbing temples. The banging and beating swelled as
one. The wind swayed the garden treetops, making leaves quiver and branches
rustle. There was electricity in the atmosphere, as the smell of damp earth
filled the air.