Friday 24 August 2018


I 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.
To 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 pumping wings.
These 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?  
But why bother to ask that question? After all, fiction is the most shameless genre. It makes no attempt to avert its lying face.

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