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In the famous Mary Robison story “Yours,” an elderly man and his young wife carve pumpkins on their porch for Halloween. Hers are messy and mediocre, while the husband, a retired doctor and “Sunday watercolorist,” creates inventive, expressive faces. Later, after a startling turn in this very short story, the old man wishes he could tell his wife his truth, “that to own only a little talent, like his, was an awful, plaguing thing; that being only a little special meant you expected too much, most of the time, and liked yourself too little.”
It’s a fascinating idea to consider in relation to Robison, one of the enormous talents (and great practitioners) of the short story in America. Maybe it speaks to her deep knowledge of the various ways life tears at us, that there are monstrous crushings—death, abandonment—and then there are constant abrasions. Most people learn to live with both. Most people, Robison’s people, also, while maybe waiting around for the pain to subside, or at least turn briefly amusing, laugh, console each other, make dinner, sit on a bench, and try new tricks for better candlelight. Read More