Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: From The Best American Short Stories of 2021: Switzerland, Nicole Krauss

 This edition was edited by Jesmyn Ward. 

I have never read Nicole Krauss before although a friend recently passed on her novel, THE HISTORY OF LOVE. Why did I choose this story? That question interests me: how do people pick the story to start with. In this case, it was the third one I tried. As usual, the George Saunders one was hard to get into. I was tempted by two writers I did know: Kevin Wilson and C. Pam Zhang but eventually this won out. 

It's the story of a teenager who is placed in a school in Switzerland, mainly to get her out of the way while her father finishes a trauma course in medical school. Too young to board at the school, her parents find her a room in a boarding house (kind of amazing that a 13 year old would be on her own) where two other girls also board. They are older than her (18) and are toying to various degrees with their sexuality. The more interesting, Soraya, is Iranian and is having an affair with a banker but is also engaging in relationships with other men. Our narrator is fascinated by this glimpse into adult life and this has impact on how she goes on to see herself.  She sees the power Soraya can wield but also its limitations.

Soraya disappears one night and her father flies in to look into this. An engineer to the Shah, he has sent his daughter to Switzerland with its promise of safety. Soroya returns and the threesome soon is separated. Our narrator looks for her off and on but never finds her. Our narrator admires Soroya's recklessness but it doesn't suit her in the end. 

"She (Soraya) had gone further than anyone I knew in a game that was never only a game, one that was about power and fear, about the refusal to comply with the vulnerabilities one is born into." 

Jerry House

George Kelley


Todd Mason said...

Sees the power Soraya is enjoying? (Vs. "seems".) This sounds promising.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes. Worth reading.

Margot Kinberg said...

Now I have to admit, Patti, that's an author whose work I've not read before. But this sounds really appealing.

George said...

I'll have to check this out. When I'm reading a short story anthology, I just start with the first story and read the book until the last story. I know readers who hop around story-to-story. I also know a woman who reads anthologies from the last story to the first story.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Will comment on my reading when I get back home. Jackie is having her second (and last, I hope) post-OP eye check. We'll see if she can get a new eyeglass prescription or will have to come back.

If the first story is very long in an anthology, I will probably skip it and come back to it later. I often read a very short story first
Also, someone I've read in the past is more likely to be someone I read first.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I never start with the first story unless it is an author I really like. In this issue of the best stories there were very few authors I knew. It has more and more become a multi-cultural assortment and I am unfamiliar with most names.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Amy Bloom, "A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You" (title story of her second collection). This is actually quite timely now, though it was publishing in 2000. When her daughter Jessie is 5, Jane Spencer suddenly realizes what she thinks should have been obvious: she is not just a "tomboy," she is a boy. The rest of the story takes place a dozen or so years later, as she is about to undergo gender reassignment surgery. I liked the Bloom showed a snarky sense of humor not apparent in most of her other stories.

Edward D. Hoch, CONSTANT HEARSES. Most of the stories in this new collection feature Alexander Swift, a spy for George Washington during the Revolution, and a trusted envoy afterwards, and many of them deal with a more personal duel with former friend turned traitor Benedict Arnold. The final story takes him into Jefferson's Presidency in 1803. The earliest is set in 1778. They are pretty interesting historically, much as his Dr. Sam Hawthorne stories often are.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I do not read enough historical fiction. Jeff, I think you would like new the Emma Straub book. It is heavily about time travel.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I have it on hold.