08 April 2009

Watson, Brad. "Visitation." The New Yorker 6 Apr 2009. 62-69.

Here's a sentence I'm never happy to see in a short story.
Loomis felt no affinity for any of them.
I like stories about loners, I guess. But can I brook stories about loners who've graduated high school? Loners with kids? What about straight, white loners named Loomis? It seems I can't. This week's New Yorker story is a pretty sad reversion to the oldest New Yorker story ever. Loomis's last name may as well have been Bascombe.

Loomis and his son just can't make it work, maybe, because he is, I guess, emotionally crippled and quote-unquote disillusioned with adulthood or something, and then at one point in the story this happens:
He recalled the days when his life with the boy's mother had seemed happy, and the boy had been small, and they would put him to bed in his room, where they had built shelves for his toy trains and stuffed animals and the books from which Loomis would read to him at bedtime. He remember the constant battle in his heart those days. How he was drawn into this construction of conventional happiness, how he felt that he loved this child more than he had ever loved anyone in his entire life, how all of this was possible, this life, how he might actually be able to do it. And yet whenever he had felt this he was also aware of the other, more deeply seated part of his nature that wanted to run away in fear. That believed it was not possible after all, that it could only end in catastrophe, that anything this sweet and heartbreaking must indeed one day collapse into shattered pieces. How he had struggled to free himself, one way or another, from what seemed a horrible limbo of anticipation. He had run away, in his fashion. And yet nothing had ever caused him to feel anything more like despair than what he felt just now, in this moment, looking at his beautiful child asleep on the motel bed in the light of the cheap lamp [. . .] (68)
Bullshit. Spare me. Watson can't even give this son a name he's such a contrived plot object.

I tend toward arrogance, but I'm not so arrogant as to think I'd ever do a better job of filling out this magazine's 48 fiction slots as D. Treisman has. And yet here's this terrible mistake. Can someone shed some light, here?


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