Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: Wednesday's Child, Yuyan Li (from THE NEW YORKER)

Li is the author of ten novels and many short stories. She's won prizes for her writing. It seems like grief is her specialty. She came to this country from Communist China, where she gave speeches extolling the regime but came to regret her support. I expected this to feel like a story written by a Chinese woman, as her novels seem to center that, but it is could be a woman from any ethnicity.

Rosalie is a photographer traveling from Amsterdam to Belgium. There is a very pregnant woman on her car and this and other things brings back memories of her own child, who took her life at age 15. She also compares her relationship with Marcie to her fraught relationship with her mother. Only a few years have passed since the suicide and her grief is palpable. Marcie was very smart and a motivated student and she wonders if she should have encouraged her to be less so. 

A sad story but well written. You feel she had to have been a good or at least good enough mother and so too her husband. Sometimes something else must be going on in a young girl's head. Of course, that she didn't see it will haunt her forever. 

Todd Mason

Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang 

George Kelley

Jerry House 



George said...

I'm sure Yin Li is a brilliant writer, but my reading lately has focused on comedy and High Adventure. Diane and I just went to a Wake for a neighbor who died from Parkinson's so we're dealing with enough grief right now.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I would like to read more comic stories but don't often run across them.

Jerry House said...

Patti, when in search of comic stories, you can't go wrong with P. G. Wodehouse, who can be read and re-read throughout eternity without losing a beat. Sad time and bad times often demand a Wodehouse collection.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have always meant to try one. Will look for one at the library today.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I'm reading a collection of Agatha Christie stories, THE LAST SEANCE, all but one of which have been previously published here in other collections. It is subtitled "Tales of the Supernatural" but frankly, most of the "supernatural" stuff is silly rather than scary. Most of these seem to have been written in her early days, the 1920s to the mid-1930s, and in general the Poirot and Marple stories are much better than the others. "Philomel Cottage" is a famous standalone, but it didn't do it for me this time.

There are so many short story writers out there that even I can't come close to keeping up, but every year I discover new ones (to me). Last year I added Roddy Doyle (I'd read his novels), Lily King, Amy Bloom, Ann Hood, Emma Straub, Chris Offutt, Jean Rhys, Emma Cline, Dan Chaon (another whose novels I'd read, as was SDtraub), John Weir, Breece D'J Pancake, Marisa Silver, Amy Hempel, and lastly Claire Keegan, the latest star.

This year my first discovery was Mary Ladd Gavell, who didn't have a single story published until after her death, and Rudolph Fisher, the Harlem doctor and author of THE CONJURE MAN DIES. The latest is Edith Pearlman, an excellent writer who died on New Year's Day, at 86. She's one of those writers highly praised by those who know her but known by too few. I'm nearly done with her collection HONEYDEW, and have a "New & Collected Stories" collection waiting to read next. She lived near Boston and most of the stories I've read are set there, often in a suburban Jewish community. "Cul-de-Sac" is narrated by a woman about her neighbors, particularly one that the other women hide from when they see her coming. "The Golden Swan" features two cousins, gifted with a cruise by their grandfather upon graduating from college. They are friendly but quite different personalities. Both stories draw you in so you want to know what happens to the characters. Good writer.

And speaking of good writers, I read Patti's story "Seek and You Will Find" from the Block anthology she mentioned yesterday. (Go to Amazon's Kindle edition and the Look Inside feature. There is something positive to say about being earliest in the alphabet.) I won't ruin it for you by giving details, but the two older (sixtyish?) friends come across very vividly. Good story.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Jeff. I have often wished for a name beginning later in the alphabet.
I will add Pearlman to my library list with Wodehouse and Hall. I have a book waiting for me by Percival Everett although I can't remember why.

Todd Mason said...

Sadder still, Jeff, Gavell did publish one (1) of her stories while she was still active, but wasn't moved to do so with more.

TracyK said...

I would like to try both novels and stories by this author but her writing does sound very serious and often sad. So maybe later.

A few months ago I subscribed to the New Yorker online, and I am enjoying it a lots, but I have yet to read a short story there, which was my original goal.

Todd Mason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Todd Mason said...

I haven't yet re-upped my sub, but TNY has an offer for those who haven't exhausted their freebees yet (and subbers) to hear Yiyun Li reading her story:

I shall have to find an example of her reading.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't always read the stories either. I like the reviews and articles just as much. I have been subscribing to TNY since I was a teen.