Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Rivka Galchen's "Usl at the Stadium" was originally published in the October 12, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.
A frequent contributor to the fiction pages of The New Yorker, Rivka Galchen returns after being absent for nearly two years. Her work has definitely gotten a mixed response here at The Mookse and the Gripes, so I look forward to seeing how folks respond to this piece.
To start things off, here are Adrienne’s initial thoughts — let us know if you agree or disagree, and explore your own take.
Usl works the buyback end of a storefront gold and gem outfit. He receives few texts, and mostly from his mom and a site called GemFacts. His life is not what he had pictured or hoped. He has dreams and he dreams them.
Usl is featured on the Jumbotron at a Yankees game — sleeping. The footage is loaded onto YouTube and cruel comments are made. His mother seeks to soothe him. A friend helps him create a lawsuit and his employer, like a father, offers sage advice.
This is a story about shame, degradation, and infamy. And this is nothing new in our “look at all the skeletons I have in MY closet” world we live in. Even without asking to be seen, many of us are. And there’s always a response we cannot control.
While the writing was decent and the plot was developed, hints and details well-placed and less speculative than truthful, I did not like this story. This type of situation happens all the time, but I avoid the drama that attends these scenes. I did not want to go into this scenario willingly, in life or in fiction. I also did not have a lot of empathy for Usl. I do not know why his name is so different (I kept looking for meaning behind that) and he remains boring throughout the whole piece. On an artistic level, this may have been the point — the drama, the name, his dullness — but I wasn’t looking for a masterpiece.
I want to read a well-written story that I can connect with, offering me insights into a truth I already know.
This one didn’t strike me as that type of story.