Deborah Treisman (the fiction editor at The New Yorker) basically only seems to want to publish stories about the small, emotion-laden, identity crises of people whose choices involve their feelings. Should I feel good about that person, or bad about that person? And mostly the person is “myself.” Very little action happens in these stories. Nothing supernatural is threatening the earth, no animals or rising tides are about to kill your loved ones, no acts of violence (except emotional or metaphorical) are looming, no discoveries are being made, no profound intellectual challenges are framed in new light. I guess that is no small complaint, mine. But still I enjoy the writing craftsmanship on display week after week.
“Fly Already” by Etgar Keret. Carefully constructed to hit a small (ice cream cone size) but profound emotional tone at the end. Nicely done. Comic suicide.
“Solstice” by Anne Enright. Carefully constructed to hit a profound emotional tone (ipad size) at the end. Nicely done. Domestic distress ends in snuggling.
“Small Flame” by Yiyun Li. Carefully constructed to hit a profound emotional tone (rocking horse size) at the end. Nicely done. Is anything ever as meaningful as the emotions of youth?
“Prairie Wife” by Curtis Sittenfeld. Carefully constructed to hit a profound emotional tone (for realsies) at the end. Nicely done. American sense of distress ends in snuggling.
“Deaf and Blind” by Lara Vapnyar. Carefully constructed to hit a profound emotional tone at the end. Nicely done. Love is all you need.
“You Are Happy?” by Akhil Sharma. Certainly more life-and-death than most of the stories, almost like a case-study of how ennui gets globalized.
“A Love Story” by Samantha Hunt. The ultimate in nothing happening but boy is it an uncannily accurate profile of middle-class privileged (by global standards) Americans in 2017. The bag of baby carrots a recognizable (cheap?) detail.