Friday, March 21, 2008

The New Yorker: "The Region of Unlikeness" by Rivka Galchen

This story, if indeed it is a story and not an excerpt from the author’s forthcoming novel Atmospheric Disturbances, begins slowly, picks up speed and becomes enthralling, and then whimpers to a conclusion. It begins with the narrator running into Ilan and Jacob at a coffee shop, although it may be that the meeting was contrived by the men in a scheme worthy of the Back to the Future series. (Yes, this story involves time travel, so at least it isn’t your normal, tedious New Yorker story.) The narrator develops something of a crush on Ilan and tolerates Jacob, until Ilan disappears. Jacob won’t say where he has gone, but the narrator does some research and finds that the men were interested in the “grandfather paradox,” a theory about time travel. Eventually Jacob explains to her that Ilan is his unborn son, come from the future to collaborate with Jacob on his work, which needs a stunning publicity stunt to bring attention to it. At this point, I’m interested, I’m thinking about the complications in The Time Traveler’s Wife, and I’m wondering when we’ll see Ilan again. Is the narrator going to marry Jacob and is Ilan actually her son? But then she resolves to avoid Jacob (even though that may very well be an example of the “predestination paradox,” related to the “grandfather paradox”). The end. What? This is no ending, which is why I think this is no story. It does make me interested in reading more of this author’s work, however, and I found this one additional exerpt from the novel, that appeared in Guernica.

March 24, 2008: “The Region of Unlikeness” by Rivka Galchen


Ruthie said...

I share your dissatisfaction with the piece.

I was so confused and disappointed by the ending that I Googled it to see what I'd come up with... and came across your post.

I'm sure the ending is meant to be intentionally vague, but it would have been nice to know what happened at Jacob's apartment...

Anonymous said...

I believe that long break between the text is suggestive that the narrator and Jacob did sleep together and fulfilled Jacob's prophecy that they were to have a son together. That son would be Ilan. The narrator was confusing her maternal feelings for Ilan as romantic feelings (a bit incestual, though their relationship never surpassed a few hand kisses)