Monday, June 21, 2010

The New Yorker: "Here We Aren't, So Quickly" by Jonathan Safran Foer

Does this story remind anyone else of Lorrie Moore? The story is short and until the last paragraph every single sentence uses a pronoun. The first paragraph is all “I” but the second is all “you” as the narrator gives information about a couple—the excuses they give, their quirks, their habits. Then there’s a paragraph that’s mixed “I” and “You” followed by a paragraph of “We.” Eventually “They” enter the picture—various third parties—and then “he” when the couple’s child is born. (Through him, time jumps forward: “He suddenly drew, suddenly spoke, suddenly wrote, suddenly reasoned. One night I couldn’t help him with his math. He got married.”

“And here we aren’t, so quickly,” says the narrator as the story nears its end. What does “aren’t” mean here? Non-existence? The sentences turn negative, although there are earlier negative sentences. Now, though, the statements are more . . . ontological: “I’m not twenty-six and you’re not sixty. I’m not forty-five or eighty-three, not being hoisted onto the shoulders of anybody wading into any sea.” Perhaps they’re dead, except he seems to say that they aren’t, or maybe he’s saying they did die—just peacefully, instead of the alternative. Or maybe they’re just retired, and that’s what “aren’t” means to him.

It’s a clever story, and thought provoking.

[available online only to subscribers, but here's a Q&A with Jonathan Safran Foer]

June 14 & 21, 2010: “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly” by Jonathan Safran Foer

1 comment:

F. Escobar said...

I agree: clever story. But it left me puzzled rather than pleased. For me, the story plodded through a plinth course of disparate details. The sentences seemed like random notes taken on a writer's journal and strung together following a clever blueprint. The tone becomes hypnotic after a while, some details are masterful, some details are funny. The order seems to unravel near the end, even before the title phrase shows up. I got the sense that the disarray was carefully done to provoke us to wonder about both the order and the ensuing disorder. Still, I was left wanting more.