Saturday, January 28, 2017
Among the best New Yorker stories I have read in years - Quarantine, by Alix Ohlin
Yet another story in current New Yorker from a writer unknown to most of the readers of the magazine, I would guess, Alix Ohlin - I know nothing about this author but am guessing Alix may be a woman, based on focus of her story, and possibly Canadian? Well, what does it matter, after all? The story, Quarantine, is truly one of the best I've read in this magazine for many years. It begins with uncertainty, as Ohlin informs us in the first sentence (or at least first paragraph) that Bridget had spent a year in Barcelona, and then we quickly get a raft of names of various Americans and Europeans with whom she lived, crashed, had sex, etc., and just as I'm beginning to think I can't keep these names straight and really do we need another how-I-spent-my-gap-year story of disillusionment, depression, and drugs, the story takes a turn: Bridget is called home because her father is seriously ill, and only then does the story come into clear view: we are reading about the lifelong relationship between Bridget and a "friend" from her year in Spain, Angela - and we follow this relationship, swiftly but with great precision, beauty, and sorrow, over the course of a lifetime. I won't give anything away, but will note that part of the power of the story is the imbalance of the so-called friendship: B feels she knows A only peripherally, but A, as we learn, thinks of B as her closest friend, which gives us a small window into the tragedy of Angela's life. I'll also note that the last paragraph or two of the story is truly a killer ending - a wise and startling reflection by the author on the nature of friendships and the shape that long-term and ever-evolving relationships give to our life and to our perception of what it means to have lived.