I feel almost as sorry for Doctorow as I do for Updike. (I guess this is not going to be the “Year of the Emerging Writer” at The New Yorker.) At least I like this story more than the Updike piece. A lot more. Although this one also involves a power outage, and I wonder if the editors put them together on purpose. Hmm.
Actually, Howard Wakefield, a lawyer coming home from the city to his nice life in the suburbs kind of reminds me of an Updike character, until he more or less loses his mind, and then he reminds me of a Cheever character, minus the booze. Anyway, he’s coming home, there’s a problem on the train that seems incredible and he is walking home late from the train station, thinking about the fight he had with his wife the night before, and as he gets to their house he sees a raccoon. The raccoon might as well be an omen because it is after this encounter that he basically becomes a raccoon – living in the attic above the garage, eating out of garbage cans, only emerging at night. And this goes on for a while – months – while we learn more about how he met his wife, how he’s not too thrilled with family life anyway, etc., until something occurs that changes his course. It’s a long story, one of the longest I’ve seen in The New Yorker for some time, and you’ll just have to read the thing to find out what happens. But I liked it and I liked what Doctorow did to alter Howard’s thinking. It was almost as brilliant as the raccoon, and I think you’ll like it too. Best story of the year so far. (Hah! Out of two. Still.)
January 14, 2008: “Wakefield” by E.L. Doctorow