Why You Might Choose to Not Read this Post:
1. You don’t care for short stories;
2. You think The New Yorker is all pretentious-ish-ness;
3. Anything with the word Fuzzies in it can’t be worthwhile; or
4. Chronic lateness irks you (and my mag reading is always behind-the-times).
Honestly, there have been more than a few reading days when I regretted my decision to read all twenty of The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 short stories. But talk about ending on a high note.
If I’d’ve done my homework, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Chris Adrian has had fiction published in Zoetrope, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, McSweeneys, Story and, yes, The New Yorker.
It’s a Short Fiction writer’s dream Publishing History. And, the cherry on top is a Guggenheim Fellowship. Sheesh. Maybe it’s a good thing that I didn’t do my homework: my expectations might have spun out of control.
Instead, I was sitting on a streetcar on a dull autumn morning, wishing that I was still at home in my own Warm Fuzzies, and beginning with:
“Her parents always gave the new kids a tambourine and stuck them back with Molly, because it was easy to play the tambourine, though there were intricacies to it that nobody else understood or appreciated, and because she was nice, though she was actually only about half as nice as everyone supposed her to be.”
I was hooked instantly.
Part of this is my own predilection for stories about being good (or, as Carol Shields would say, goodish), about being nice, about being not-good-enough, about being not-all-that-nice.
But part of it was Chris Adrian, for making Molly such an intriguing character. Molly wasn’t always Molly-as-we-meet-her-here, when Peabo arrives. Once she was just Molly Carter, and then there were foster kids and the Carters became the Carter Family Band, singing songs about Jesus.
The song that Molly and the Carter Family Band are singing when we meet her is all about how much Jesus loves her, but things are not that simple in Molly’s real life beyond the chorus.
“She could understand if there were two boys in him, since she had felt there were two girls in her, one for the regular voice that said regular things about people and one that spoke a language made up only of cruel insults. If she stared in the bathroom mirror long enough, she thought she could catch that other girl’s features superimposed in brief flashes upon hers: her eyes were small and her nose turned up like a pig’s, and her mouth was a colorless gash in her face.”
Molly isn’t all-that-nice, nor all-that-good: she’s an ordinary little girl. And she leaps off the page of Chris Adrian’s story.
So, ok, committing twenty posts to a single theme, signing myself up for twenty stories, ten of them by authors I’d never heard of before? That might’ve been a little hasty. I might’ve regretted it here and there. But then I read a fantastic story like this one, and I remember what it was all about: finding new favourites.
Have you read Chris Adrian before?
PS You can read his Q&A here.