The Listen Here! Short Story Reading Series rolls into its 9th week with readings at Willoughby’s “Coffee & Tea, 194 York Street, this Tuesday, May 4, 7 p.m. Our Theme?
“Lovesick” Our Stories?
Jhumpa Lahiri’s “A Temporary Matter” and Lydia Peele’s “Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing”
Jhumpa Lahiri is best known for her novel The Namesake (almost inevitable when these things make it to the silver screen.) Before then, however, she was a highly regarded short story writer. In fact, her collection of short stories, The Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2000. “A Temporary Matter” comes from this 1999 collection and, we will freely admit, upon first reading in the airport as we were scrounging around for stories, this one brought us to tears. The tale really does manage one of those few amazing feats of a great short story: it delivers an O Henry-like twist ending—the bane of most modern short story writers who take the craft “seriously”—with a deeply moving tale that is rich in ideas and possibilities. In brief, it is more than its ending, and yet its ending really is everything, begging an entire re-thinking of the story title itself.
Lydia Peele is not so well known. Translation: there is no Wikipedia article on her. She is, however, the winner of a 2009 Pushcart Prize, one of our sources for stories by lesser-known talents who deserve greater recognition. “Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing” is a quirky story: it’s about love, it’s about reptiles, it’s about evolution. It asks questions without necessarily answering them, suggesting almost in its form (as you’ll hear) something textbook-ish about how the world is or could be and notwithstanding that textbook-ishness, meaning inheres in our experience of love and loss, parting and reuniting.