I hate cancer stories. There are too many of them and it is too easy to make them overly sentimental and melodramatic. But this one is different. This one is so highly original (in a Shakespeare-derivative way) that it overcomes all of my objections. I think this is one terrific story. Brad, son of Trudy and Bob, is suffering from leukemia. I mean, “Boy,” the changeling of Tatania and Oberon, is suffering from leukemia. They do everything that real parents do, including smuggling in food that the boy isn’t supposed to have, bringing in familiar items from home (even if some of them are invisible to mortals like the nurses and doctors), and inviting friends to visit—mostly other faeries. At first the boy responds to treatment, but then he starts to get worse. Since he can’t keep down food, even though he begs for it, Oberon and Tatania prepare a tiny feast for him, with the help of the faeries. They chop tiny vegetables and cook tiny chickens, and bake a tiny cake.
Tatania’s magic can do nothing to save the boy, although it does manage to help other children. And when the boy eventually dies, the faeries hold a grand funeral procession through the hospital and back to the faerie home under the hill.
It’s a wonderful creation, and one of my favorites of the year so far.
April 20, 2009: “A Tiny Feast” by Chris Adrian
Glad you liked this one... this is a special story on many levels...
I agree with you, Cliff. This is one of the best New Yorker stories of the year.
Definitely a keeper. How can one recommend a story of child abduction, suffering and death as strangely wonderful? And yet, it was.
I saw this story differently...the parents were actually insane, although raising this poor child. Their way of viewing the world was through this Faery lens...diffent take on it.
It's a story. Made up. Why can't the fairies be fairies? To relate to the "real world"... analogy is powerful enough. How are these imaginary beings like what we know?
But the reductionist approach... like 19th C. Biblical scholarship... wanting to find "scientific" explanations for miracles. Only here--you have no reason to make fiction other than fiction... a work of imagination. Then you can go from there.
My mother also thought the parents were insane. I thought she had entirely missed the point of the story and of all stories. This is real because it's a story. This is Titania -- it is Oberon -- it's all real and heart-breakingly beautiful. Nothing shows the agony of losing a child better than this story. In fact, I do not believe I have read a short story ANYWHERE better than this, ever. Yes -- it's my favorite short story EVER.
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