From “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly,” by Jonathan Safran Foer, from the 20 Under 40 issue of The New Yorker that I just now brought back from home. It’s a short story, not a book, but just… read this. It begins:
“I was not good at drawing faces. I was just joking most of the time. I was not decisive in changing rooms or anywhere. I was so late because I was looking for flowers. I was just going through a tunnel whenever my mother called. I was not able to make toast without the radio. I was not able to tell if compliments were backhanded. I was not as tired as I said.”
From halfway through, when you find out about the baby: “They encouraged us to buy insurance. We had sex to have orgasms. You loved re-upholstering… He could stand himself up, but not get himself down.”
From the end: “I changed and changed and changed, and with more time I will change more… We reached the middle so quickly. After everything it’s like nothing. I have always never been here. What a shame it wasn’t easy. What a waste of what? What a joke. But come. No explaining or mending. Be beside me somewhere: on the split stools of this bar, by the edge of this cliff, in the seats of this borrowed car, at the prow of this ship, on the all-forgiving cushions of this threadbare sofa in this one-story copper-crying fixer-upper whose windows we once squinted through for hours before coming to our senses: ‘What would we even do with such a house?’”
Jesus, this short story is good. All the stories in this issue are knockouts but I think it’s obvious from the first bit that this one is unusual: a wry, exceedingly sad lamentation told in this strict but perfectly fitted formula. I do think something about it is incredibly derivative, though; the rhythm of it sounds like a poem that would not be as good as the story, and there are almost cheesy parts, like this–“We went to Tobey Pond every year until we didn’t”–and the sort of emo quality of “Be beside me somewhere” through the image of “the prow of this ship” is as indulgent as it is affecting. But still, I loved it. I spent most of this story feeling like someone was stabbing me, so it has to be art–isn’t that how it works?