Barry Yourgrau’s story “Sand” appeared in our Spring 1985 issue. It appears (in slightly different form) in his collection Wearing Dad’s Head, reissued this month by Arcade Publishing along with another of his books, Haunted Traveller. Read More
Chekhov, Thomas Mann, and the longueurs of vacationing.
After a proposal from a rich but ridiculous suitor, Tony Buddenbrook, the high-society heroine of Thomas Mann’s first novel, leaves the German city of Lübeck for Travemünde, a resort town where the Trave River meets the Baltic Sea. “I won’t pay any attention to the social whirl at the spa,” she tells her brother Tom. “I know all that quite well enough already.” Tony stays instead in the modest home of her father’s friend the harbor pilot, whose son, a medical student named Morten Schwarzkopf, is also on vacation. On her first day, he accompanies Tony to the spa, and she invites him to meet the friends she had pledged to avoid. “I don’t think I’d fit in very well,” Morten says. “I’ll just go sit back there on those stones.”
By the end of the summer, Tony and Morten have fallen in love, and “on the stones” is a “fixed phrase” in their relationship, Mann writes, meaning “to be lonely and bored.” I visited Travemünde recently and after a few hours felt rather on the stones myself. The Baltic Sea was impotent at raising waves, and an incontinent gray sky drizzled on the city. The riverside homes along the Front Row, where the harbor pilot lived, are now tourist shops and restaurants filled with old German couples not talking to each other. The other nineteenth-century landmarks of Tony and Morten’s romance haven’t aged much better. The Sea Temple, a waterfront gazebo where they sit so close their hands nearly touch, fell into the Baltic in 1872, drowning with it the records of young lovers who scratched their initials on the walls. Read More
“Bad Behavior,” a short story by Alexia Arthurs in our new Summer issue, follows Stacy, the teenage daughter of Jamaican immigrants living in Brooklyn. After a series of troubling events at home and school, she’s sent to live with her grandmother in Jamaica.
Arthurs, a graduate of Hunter College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, was born in Jamaica and moved to New York with her family at the age of twelve. She wrote to me about her story by e-mail.
Where did “Bad Behavior” come from?
I wondered what an immigrant mother sacrifices when she raises her children in America—so many of her energies are directed toward survival and providing. I babysat to pay for my undergraduate education in New York City, and I noticed that women who were more financially settled—who could afford expensive childcare and someone to clean for them—were particularly concerned with the anxieties of their children. It’s interesting to consider which mothers have that privilege, to be present in a vigorous way. “Bad Behavior” deals with this—“Not all mothers could afford to be kind.” Also, once I knew of a young girl who was dangerously reckless, and I remember that someone suggested sending her to Jamaica as a last resort. I don’t know what became of the girl. Read More
Our Spring Revel is tonight. In anticipation of the event, the Daily is featuring a series of posts celebrating Lydia Davis, who is being honored this year with The Paris Review’s Hadada Award. Here, the illustrator Roman Muradov has adapted into comics Davis’s story “In a House Besieged,” which was originally published in the collection Break It Down (1986).
We are delighted to announce that Claire Vaye Watkins has won the Dylan Thomas Prize, awarded to the best work of literature published by an author under the age of thirty, for her debut short story collection Battleborn.
Read an excerpt of Watkins’s story “Gold Mine,” from issue 195, here.
In seventh grade, I was teased mercilessly about my funny speaking voice, and I’ve been self-conscious about it ever since. It took some persuading to get me to make this recording, and it’s a testament to the story that I was game: while I love many things in issue 205, “Local Obits” was what I wanted to share. Anyone familiar with Lydia Davis’s work knows that she can do a lot with a little, and this piece—composed of elliptical snatches of lives, or, rather, someone else’s distillation thereof—turns the quotidian incantatory, funny, bittersweet, strange. A master class in the minimal (if not in performance).