New Yorker fiction -- February 5, 2007 issue
I'm going to try and get back into reviewing stories, and this'n here will be a baby step. I feel like I'm getting rusty -- all I read are novels now. Anyway, this'n here is a baby step because this this'n here isn't much of a story. Nothing happens in the action -- literally nothing. What we get are the thoughts of Lane A. Dean, Jr., a student at a junior college, as he sits with his girlfriend on a park bench. She is pregnant and they have scheduled an abortion. They are devout Christians. They are torn. He has an imaginary conversation with her in his head. He doesn't love her -- or does he?
A certain member of our class was once told dismissively in workshop by Frank Conroy: "That's not a story -- that's a dilemma." Ding ding ding ding ding! This particular dilemma, of course, was covered many years ago in "Hills Like White Elephants." One difference is: Hemingway made it into a story. One thing that helped make that a story was that the woman got to say stuff -- out loud. Her character got to be developed in the action, producing dramatized conflict. Still, the writing here is excellent, as you would expect. DFW gets way, way into his character's head, and the piece can be sucked profitably for that kind of juice, but that's the sole reason this doesn't get a red light.
Is this very short piece an excerpt from a forthcoming novel? Would it be published if the author's name were Delbert Fawcett Walcott? These are questions that sprang to this rusty story-reader's mind.