Saturday, May 30, 2009

The New Yorker: "Love Affair with Secondaries" by Craig Raine

I tell writing students that stories about adultery and stories about cancer are tired and done to death, and that stories about adultery AND cancer are no better. A story about either of these subjects or both should actually be about something else; the adultery and cancer should be backgrounded. Otherwise—boring. We’ve seen it. A million times.

I thought, at first, that this story was going to be about something else. It seemed to have a message about truth and then it seemed to be about consequences, but then it seemed to be about lies and no consequences, and finally it just seemed to be about adultery and the excuses we make for it.

The story is this: Piotr is having an affair partly because he thinks he’s dying. His wife, who has had an affair, finds out. The family holds an intervention, but it turns out that Piotr’s older brother has had an affair with the same woman. We’re all just mayflies, etc.

I think I’ve been giving my writing students good advice.

June 1, 2009: "Love Affair with Secondaries by Craig Raine


GO said...

I agree with your advice.

litscribbler said...

Excellent point, Cliff. I just finished writing a review of Visiting Hours, an anthology of stories mostly about illness. Though there are some standouts, a number of the stories lean too heavily on the illness, as though that in itself justifies the story. There needs to be a larger story outside the illness (or adultery, or whatever) that is heightened by that element, but doesn't depend on it.

bergman said...

I wonder why Mr. Raine choose the Polish to exhibit the who-gives-a-fuck attitude. It really doesn't work. Especially the end as you say. Jesus' Son is raw. But this is calculated. All the f-bombs at the end-does D. Treisman think this is engaging, subversive work? I'm sorry Craig Raine, get a new shtick.

Anonymous said...

There is just way too much being published in all the high places having to do with death or serious illness. I am so very tired of it.