“A Love Story”
by Samantha Hunt
from the May 22, 2017 issue of The New Yorker

We’ve posted on only one story by Samantha Hunt, and that was nearly seven years ago, yet I remember it well. Not for good reasons. That story, “The Yellow” (thoughts here), has come to represent much of what I dislike about contemporary American short fiction, and New Yorker fiction in particular. Weighty but meaningless metaphors, trite sexual encounters, redundancy imposed because it looks strong (“urgently time-sensitive”), etc.

However, I was one of the only ones to dislike “The Yellow” at all, let along so much. Hunt has impressed many readers more discerning than I. Her second novel, The Invention of Everything Else, was a finalist for the Orange Prize in 2009. Hunt’s most recent novel, 2016’s Mr. Splitfoot, received positive reviews upon its release. And we are now seven years on, so why don’t I just settle down and give Hunt another chance? Time may force me out of this one, again, but please do let me know whether “A Love Story” works and whether room should be made for it! I do not think I’ll go for it otherwise.

I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this piece below!

Liked it? Take a second to support The Mookse and the Gripes on Patreon!
By | 2017-06-16T22:06:53+00:00 May 15th, 2017|Categories: New Yorker Fiction, Samantha Hunt|15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Sasha May 17, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    I’m neither American nor the author’s age — perhaps that’s why I really struggled with this story. The protagonist talks about her disappointing sex life and life as a mother, but for some reason I saw it as whining and “first world problems” I didn’t connect with. I can’t articulate why I got this impression, because there are other stories about disappointing sex life and life as a mother that spoke to me.

    This is my first time posting here, so I apologize if the comment is not that constructive. I read the story once (didn’t finish) and listened to the rest on the New Yorker podcast. It’s probably my least favorite New Yorker story ever. If anyone here could help me appreciate the story I’m totally ready to give it another read.

  2. Trevor Berrett May 17, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Thank you, Sasha — you are most welcome!

  3. David May 18, 2017 at 12:09 am

    Well, I read it Monday. Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it. It was just … ho hum. I meant to read it again but frankly can’t be bothered. This story might appeal to someone who has a pre-existing special interest in the subject matter, but I don’t see anything particularly insightful in it or a unique perspective offered by it to make the character special or memorable. Like Sasha I wonder if maybe there is some reason I should appreciate the story more than I did. But I can’t muster the enthusiasm to give it another chance.

  4. Roger May 18, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    “Whining” is definitely the word to sum up this story and its narrator/protagonist. This was livelier than Yiyun Lee’s “A Small Flame” but, like that story, is burdened by a main character drenched in self-pity. I did like the scene at the bar where the main character’s twenty-something drug dealer colleague asks her for a snack, figuring she’s got one because she’s a mom. And it was funny when she produced the snack. But nothing else to like here.

  5. Lee Monks May 19, 2017 at 5:51 am

    This felt a little like a Paul Beatty piece – sharp but rambling.

  6. William May 20, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    I’m with Sasha here — “I saw it as whining and “first world problems” I didn’t connect with”. however, I’m old and I’m a male, so . . .

  7. Dennis Lang May 20, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Is this character really so strange? Is she unlike any of us in that moment awakening in the middle of the night, adrift in time and space, not knowing who are or where we’re going? How does what we do: banker, plumber, convict,,,mother define us, and should it? And if it doesn’t, what does? Yes, there were times at first the author’s voice struck me as an Amy Shumer monologue, but it kept going deeper and deeper and didn’t stop.
    Reminds of the time I was the only guy in a class on the feminist novel. I was there to get dates. I left knowing a whole bunch I didn’t know going in.
    Thought provoking story–for me.

  8. Greg May 27, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    You are hilarious Dennis, love it –

    “Reminds of the time I was the only guy in a class on the feminist novel. I was there to get dates.”

    Also, I agree with your take on the story. It reminds me of what Scott Fitzgerald believed:

    “In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.”

    Lastly, I adore these lines from the piece:

    “The only desire I have that compares to the way men talk about sex is my fervor for rehashing the past. I relive the exquisite pain of things that no longer exist: my father’s jean jacket, my father, Travolta’s 1977 dark beauty, how it felt to be alone in the house with my mom after my siblings left for school, the hypnotic rotations of my record-player spinning the Osmonds and Paper Lace, the particular odors of a mildewed tent in summertime. Memory as erogenous zone.”

  9. Diana May 27, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    I read the comments here before reading the story, so was expecting very little. Instead, this story gutted me. My years as a young mother are far behind me, but reading this was like reading my old journals transformed into art. More than once I was moved to tears! I plan to read more by her to see if her work is always this searing, this clear-eyed.

  10. Greg May 27, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    “Gutted” – I have always loved that term Diana!

    “Searing” too….

    And I see what you are saying, if someone wants to truly know what it’s like to have multiple babies, this story is for them….my favourite part was on how some women chased perfection and faked happiness to the utter dismay of the main character….what section did you like best Diana?

  11. Fahime June 2, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    I liked the story in terms of its style, topics, and the plot, but it seems most of the people do not have the same idea. I do not know if it is the taste and preferences or what. Anyhow, I like when a character does not hide behind the facade of the happy and ideal way of living, let it be about motherhood or workplace. The character’s reflections or as some call whining reveal more than what she thinks. She has to some extent paradoxical views, but these reflections reveal some hidden desires of her, especially when she tries to be a friend with the writer from her neighborhood, who is exactly the opposite of who she is and what she sometimes tries to be, importantly a writer. The way Hunt plays with the time in the narrative is also interesting. It seems the narrator recounts the story in fragmentation, but the narration seems to be a continuous non-stop babbling. I also liked how the story represents the significance of language (e.g. “queer”) and of course identity. This does not mean I agree with what the character says, just the way she is represented through her narration was interesting.

  12. Rai June 9, 2017 at 5:08 am

    Loved the story but let’s see if I can explain why. I like stories told in a stream of fragments, thoughts, distractions, but for them to work they have to transcend the individual fragments to become a shimmering haze of something that lives above and beyond the literal story. Or as Diana says above: transformation into art. I suppose this is also down to individual aesthetic preference.

    As for the character, the topic of motherhood and FWPs – What is FWP supposed to mean anyway? It gets thrown about here quite often. We lump in the same category the annoyance of having avocado toast burnt and complaints of subway carriages smelling of homeless men together with existential doubts that stir deep within a person. Reflections get labelled as whining (nicely said Fahime). Aren’t the main goals of societies to overcome the physical challenges of living (availability of food, shelter, etc) AND to support the emotional needs of people (love, identity, belonging, purpose)? If the former has been satisfied, it’s only natural to explore the latter.

    Hmmm…not sure where I’m taking this, so I’m going to leave it at that for the time being ; )

  13. Greg June 9, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Fahime and Rai – You have hit on a mentality of ’emotion bashing’ which irks me too:

    “Reflections get labelled as whining.”

    “Aren’t the main goals of societies to overcome the physical challenges of living (availability of food, shelter, etc) AND to support the emotional needs of people (love, identity, belonging, purpose)?”

  14. Eric June 11, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    To me, this story read like a few months’ worth of Facebook postings from a sharp, articulate, somewhat rudderless woman with a real bad case of postpartum depression (and a willingness to overshare). Since I do spend more time than I should reading that stuff and this was much better than any real Facebook posting I can remember, it would be hypocritical of me to pretend that I didn’t enjoy this! The ending felt false, though, like the author ginned up some conflict to give the story some narrative force and eventual closure. Personally, I would have preferred another few months of Facebook postings, to see how new moms get out of this kind of funk, or don’t.

  15. Greg June 13, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    It’s cool Eric that you can publicly admit on a literary site your weakness for Facebook!

Leave a Reply