The New Yorker: "Love Affair with Secondaries" by Craig Raine / by Christina Rosalie

It’s about adultery and cancer. Two things that seem kind of overdone especially when combined without beauty in the same story, which is how I felt this story combined them. I wanted to like it, I really did, especially since DH said the story sucked and I wanted to have some sort of cool-kid take on it, some sort of highbrow comeback that I could make in defense of the story. But I didn’t. There were a handful of really beautiful lines.

"The slow thistledown of stars, for example, their drift and cling, was something that struck her with renewed force whenever she removed her spectacles—and was looking over a lover’s shoulder at the Milky Way."

And there were some good, if not overstated ones. "It wasn’t his vanity that drove him—it was his mortality. He didn’t want to remain young. He wanted to be alive before he died. That was all."

And in between there was a lot of sort of clever, obscure, disjointed storytelling that walked around the action, never quite in it.

Maybe it a story about mortality, or about truth, or about how each one of us feels faced with the fact that we are just here temporarily in a body that is always dying . Like mayflies, etc.

Or maybe it is about excuses, or about women and how they use men, or how men use women, or about how everyone is emotional and foolish because all we do is use each other. But the story doesn’t really commit.

If anything, I liked the element of surprise. I liked that you didn’t expect the walloping over the head with the umbrella, the mother-in-law kiss with tongue, or the reveal at the end, “—our kid” and all that. But even though I was surprised, and I like to be surprised by a story, it wasn’t enough. The ending was predictable. Maybe because given the subject matter there are only a limited number of outcomes?

Go read it, will you? Read it and then come back here and tell me what you think.

I guess I wanted to say it was a good story because it was in the New Yorker and it should be good, right? And it did have that distinct New Yorker flavor. Dry. Sarcastic. Afflicted. But I think Raine was trying too hard. As though he’s saying, Look at me. Watch how I say what this story is about without ever saying it. Except it was so completely vague and disjointed that it almost felt like you needed one those secret decoder rings you used to be able to find in a box of cereal: if you are hip enough your allowed to get it. That, or maybe I’m still just not one of the cool kids. (One thing I did love about the piece: KENRO IZU, “STILL LIFE 467." Absolutely Exquisite.)