Thursday, July 28, 2011

The New Yorker: "Reverting to a Wild State" by Justin Torres

August 1, 2011: “Reverting to a Wild State” by Justin Torres

There’s a lot to like about this story, starting with its innovative structure. It’s made up of 4 sections, moving backward in time (3, 2, 1, 0). The narrator as a 19 year old, in the last section, has just become involved with Nigel, and the two are embarking on a summer adventure—working on a small farm in Virginia. In the third scene, but second chronologically, Nigel worries that the narrator is breaking up with him, and the narrator is revealed to be flawed (but then we KNEW that from the first scene, which is last chronologically). But no need to summarize the whole thing—it’s short, and it’s available to read for free, so please do. It doesn’t feel particularly deep—it’s essentially about a gay man who isn’t able to hold onto something good—but still, it’s a good piece.

I was afraid that it was an excerpt, since Torres has a novel coming out later this year, but judging by the very interesting interview conducted by Willing Davidson it’s not. I find it interesting that Torres talks about the autobiographical nature of his writing, but then says that the characters are composites. I’d say this is true for most writers, whether they admit it or not.

1 comment:

Karen McBryde said...

Justin was in the same workshop with Margaret and me at Tin House several years ago. And the stories he submitted there were somewhat biographical. I think he does an amazing job bringing the stories to life, which doesn't always happen when writers use characters who are composites of people from their daily lives. I saw then what a talent he is and wasn't at all surprised to hear he was at Iowa and then got the Stegner fellowship. This story blew me away.