As a non-New Yorker, I think New Yorker stories are better when the characters find a reason to be somewhere other than New York. The current story, Lucky Alan by Jonathan Lethem, takes place entirely in Manhattan and is claustrophobic, not least because much of it occurs inside darkened movie theaters or wine bars. Grahame, a former actor, is acquainted with Sigismund Blondy, a sometime-director, whith whom he shares a fondness for movies. Blondy, for his part, has experienced the end of a friendship with Alan Zwelish, whom he once offended by calling him Lucky Alan. (I think I understand Alan’s annoyance—he wasn’t lucky, he made his good fortune, which, after all, was superficial.) And the turning point of the story is when Blondy explains to Grahame how and why and feels guilty at the ending of the friendship. The conclusion that the two men come to, that “you don’t choose who you love,” is a bit trite, but of course that’s their conclusion, not the story’s. Structurally, the long internal story about Blondy and Zwelish dragged, and while it is needed because the light it sheds on the relationship between Grahame and Blondy, it went on much too long.
March 19, 2007: “Lucky Alan” by Jonathan Lethem