“The First World”
by Joseph O’Neill
from the July 2, 2018 issue of The New Yorker

It’s fitting that as I start to look at the ten-year anniversary of The Mookse and the Gripes that we get a story by Joseph O’Neill. His Netherland was among the books I first reviewed back in July 2008, and I have fond memories. Indeed, I was reading Netherland in the hospital when my second son, fittingly named Holland, was born that year on July 19, my own birthday! It was a wonderful time, and very memorable.

I haven’t particularly enjoyed much of O’Neill’s work since Netherland, though. But I previewed “The First World” a bit just now, and it looks like he’s delving back into personal loss, the struggle for hope, and unlikely friendship, which were things I liked most about Netherland. Here is the first paragraph of “The First World”:

My marriage came to an end, with consequences that were almost all beyond my powers of anticipation. One such consequence was that a series of men confided in me about their marriages past or present. These weren’t my old buddies—my old buddies suddenly viewed me with a kind of fear. These were guys with whom I’d had friendly but arm’s-length dealings: a father at my kids’ school; the contractor who was painting my new place; or, to take an astounding case, my dermatologist. Previously his opinions had been restricted to the perils of moles; now he opened up, unprompted, on the pros and cons of monogamy as he’d experienced them. Either these men had heard about my new situation or something about me, some post-apocalyptic air, had led them to sniff it out.

O’Neill recently published a short story collection called Good Trouble. “The First World” is not one of the eleven stories contained therein, which makes me wonder if it’s part of a forthcoming novel or if O’Neill is just starting a new cycle of stories.

At any rate, that’s all beside the point! How did you like the story? Please feel free to share your thoughts on it, O’Neill’s work, or anything else you feel will help foster a nice conversation.

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By |2018-06-25T11:34:14-04:00June 25th, 2018|Categories: Joseph O'Neill, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: |22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. David June 25, 2018 at 9:53 pm

    The narrator meets an acquaintance he hasn’t seen for a long time. The man wants to tell him about this problem he has but it takes forever for him to tell it and the narrator gets bored and just wants to leave. The narrator also has his own slice of life he wants to share which, it seems likely, the acquaintance would similarly be bored by. O’Neill does a great job of portraying this situation, which unfortunately meant I was bored and couldn’t wait for them to finish their stories.

  2. Sean H June 26, 2018 at 5:09 am

    O’Neill’s interest in gender pervades the opening but the story is interested in plumbing far more than just “How guys relate to each other.”

    The first section (the first five paragraphs) is dense and garrulous, truly inviting, a significant achievement. They set up a milieu of male friendship and all its complications, as does the reference to Frog and Toad at the end (which the father reads to his son). A child’s mind as filled with “beautiful misconceptions” is a nice metaphor for the human condition as well.

    I like how the line “I don’t want to hear any more stories about rotten behavior or the battle of the sexes or the woe that is marriage” works as a metacommentary on the very type of responses that a website like this one generates, and rebuts critical dismissals in general (as if certain universal topics are exhaustible instead of labile and ever-evolving; as this one is, with the mention of a nanny, once largely the realm of the aristocrat and now a far more common occurrence for the middle-class than it’s ever been). The sky-high bill Gladys receives being another “new” component that this story really would not have had even a generation ago, as Gladys’s status as Trinidadian is also not exactly something you’d likely see anything but near-recently, and the same for her son being in his forties without a career.

    O’Neill’s names are very well-chosen. Always a sign of a confident and adept writer.

    Arty’s finger-point is a lovely detail.

    The Nordic coat pairs well as a contrast/foil alongside the Caribbean. And “Trinidad was wealthy and modern enough to make things expensive but not poor and traditional enough to make things cheap” is a concise and effective sentence. “The philanthropist bracket” is nicely conceived and executed as well, situating Arty class-wise. The late Saharan dust triangulates the story well geographically before the Vietnamese food squares it.

    However, to offer at least one strong negative critique, the lines “That light at the end of the tunnel? That was the approaching express train of college fees for two daughters” are pretty awful.

    “Vestimentary” is a helluva word choice. “Consortium” too. “Orbisonian,” however, tries a bit too hard, but is not a complete disaster, and does at least color-in some of our narrator’s character through his taste in music. It also paints Art correctly as lonely and the narrator correctly as not.

    And some wisdom by O’Neill here: “Faith cannot conceal character. The brothers could go to church as often as they liked, but in Arty’s book they just weren’t kind people.”

    The author also understands that all our contemporary handwringing about “caring” too much or too little or about whom is rather pedantic and silly and ephemeral (unlike art, which leads me to consider again O’Neill’s skill at character naming – a pale ale is also just the right type of beer for our narrator).

    Religion too is timeless. Consider the Star of David at the opening of the story and the hood that makes the narrator friar-like at the end. Nature and weather are also universal. “The falling from the sky of ice crystals is the product of natural rules; but numinous causes and compossibilities now suggested themselves.” This also relates to science, to the importance of randomness and chance, like the narrator’s lost wallet. The narrator is essentially a man of faith, content to let nature have its way. Arty is too intent on doing, while the narrator is happy just being.

  3. Larry Bone June 26, 2018 at 8:43 am

    I may be in a minority but I really like the Mookse and the Gripes comments on immigrant, bad marriage and bad relationship short stories. Though I don’t really like negative critical comments, it is always interesting to wonder how the commenter arrived at his or her conclusions. The value of this website is that it gets us reading and thinking about writing and authors we might never otherwise look at. And what is the value of good books and short stories if they are never read and discussed?

  4. Trevor Berrett June 26, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    I really enjoyed this one, so I’m glad to add to Sean’s positive comments above. I agree that perhaps the strongest part of the whole story is the first few paragraphs, where we see the narrator and random male acquaintances sniffing out each other’s marital woes and coming together to share stories about the wrongs they’d suffered in marriage. I love how all of the “garrulous, alcoholized attempts to formulate generally applicable propositions about happiness” etc. is summed up: “If I discovered a useful law of living, I can’t remember it.”

    But now that the narrator is remarried and living quite happily ten-years removed from this “post-apocalyptic” period.

    “I don’t want to hear any more stories about rotten behavior or the battle of the sexes of the woe that is marriage. I’ve moved on. These days I’m all about love’s triumph, adversity overcome, the peak scaled, the clarity after the rain.”

    And then we get into the long story Arty tells him about Gladys, a story our narrator only listens to because he feels he must pay for a round of drinks. O’Neill works this story in so nicely, showing us how it keeps interrupting the narrator’s more selfish desire to leave or to reflect on his own. At first, most of it is told in dialogue and direct quotations. Then the narrator drifts into his own aside to tell us about losing his wallet. Then, in a wonderful stroke, Gladys’s story jumps back, with no transition, and now with no quotations. The narrator wants to get away still, but seems to have allowed this tiresome story to take over for a bit.

    The narrator’s perspective on Arty is patiently patronizing. He doesn’t care about Arty’s woes and he doesn’t come close to caring about Gladys’s role. He has a happy life to return to, one where a lost wallet will likely show up in the mailbox and he can do without — without the cards, cash, and stress — in the meantime. From attempting to find anyone to connect with and complain with, the narrator has now adopted complacency. I think the story is fun and serious, a nice way to explore that very complacency, to walk away when someone is struggling.

  5. David June 26, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    Trevor, I’m glad you liked it more than I did. One of my problems with the story is that it seemed pretty clear where it was going for these two guys right from the start. The narrator gives this long introduction that makes it clear he really has no interest in Arty and his problems from the outset. Through the story, that does not develop in any way. There is no change here. We just get Arty going on and on and the narrator being bored, distracted, and trying to leave. If the story ended after 500 words I would have gotten all that. I don’t know what the other 5000 were for.
    .
    Another problem I had is that Gladys is by far the most interesting character, and she only seems to be included to give Arty something to talk about. Of all three of them, she seems to be the one who has had the roughest time, the greatest difficulties, and has the more interesting life. So I kept wanting to leave the guys at the bar behind and hear her story from her perspective. I never really did understand why Gladys is such a problem for Arty that he has no idea what to do. Like I said, I was with the narrator in wanting to leave him behind. Although just about anyone else would have found a way to do it without being as much of a jackass as the narrator is.
    .
    You do point out some of the aspects of constructing the story that complement the ideas, and I did notice them as well, but I would have been more impressed if they were not leading us to a place where we were all along. Anyway, it is good to have you commenting on a story again. We don’t get that often enough these days.

  6. Trevor Berrett June 27, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    I certainly enjoyed the journey through the story more than you did, David, and that makes all the difference. Had I felt the story was tedious or straining, or had I thought the narrator’s demeanor wasn’t interesting, I wouldn’t have cared about the insights either.

    And it is wonderful to have taken some time to respond to this story, so thank you for your response!

  7. Arleen June 30, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    I find this story intriguing, and particularly appreciate Sean H.’s comments about “randomness and chance” and spirituality and our present day preoccupation with the correct amount of “caring” in “The First World”.
    Something that strikes me is how neither of the men in the story listen to each other. They are totally preoccupied with their own thoughts and stories, and O’Neill communicates this masterfully. Arty starts his monologue by saying “I’d like your opinion on this”, but he never engages the narrator with questions along the way.
    Does anyone else in this forum suspect that Gladys is using Arty? Is manipulating him big time? He pays for all her flights, he accommodates her when she is in NYC. He worries about her alone at Christmas when her own brothers live close to her. Her brothers refuse to help support her. Has she ever proven to Arty in any way what her circumstances are? She complains about the flights and always orders special meals on them. He has given thousands of dollars to a former nanny, gone to her son’s wedding, and he is not a wealthy man.
    To all these amazing acts of generosity, the narrator never seems to respond or question. Why is Arty doing this? Even Paloma, who has money and lots to be grateful for Gladys is hard-hearted. Why is Arty still carrying all the financial burden?
    As the narrator takes a long walk home in the “numinous” snow, he notices the variety of footprints on the pavement. He thinks not for a moment about Arty’s predicament. We used to say “No man is an island”, but in this “First World” a lot of people seem to be islands.

  8. Rosalind July 1, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Arleen, I also thought Artys involvement in Gladys life inappropriate.
    . It didn’t work that Arty a school principal where you are surrounded by savvy teens, to keep in line would be her fall guy.. She was not the Grandma but a paid worker, who when she left a family/job, it was over. Maybe for Arty, Gladys was his missing piece.

    Thank you Trevor for providing this site. I also miss Betsy who always validated my take on a story.

  9. David July 1, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    Arleen and Rosalind, I got the feeling from the story that we are perhaps supposed to think that Gladys is taking advantage of Arty’s kindness, but there are a couple of reasons I am hesitant to be positive about that conclusion. Firstly, Arty’s descriptions of the seeming complete indifference of everyone else Gladys worked for does seem to suggest that there is something wrong with their lack of compassion. These are people who trusted their children with her, yet once they are gone they have no sympathy for any difficulties she might have. That strikes me as an indictment of their basic humanity. But second, Arty I don’t trust Arty to give a reliable description of the situation. In a number of cases, it sounds like the idea to give her money came from him, not her suggestion. This is also part of why I wanted to hear Gladys’ story from her own perspective.
    .
    Ultimately I think O’Neill was really trying to present a very complicated situation where it really wasn’t clear if Arty was being taken advantage of or whether Gladys’ need was real and she was merely the beneficiary of Arty’s generosity. The story isn’t really about Gladys and whether or not she really needs help. She is only there to give Arty something to talk to the narrator about to show just how self-absorbed the narrator is and how little he cares about helping him. While it’s unclear whether or not Gladys is using Arty, it is fairly clear that O’Neill is using Gladys. He doesn’t really care about her situation either.

  10. Eric July 2, 2018 at 4:48 am

    I’m glad that I read this story in the context of this site. On my first read-through, it seemed pointless, with a promising and engaging beginning fizzling out into an overlong rant about a guy’s former nanny hitting him up for money. But after reading these comments (and the very good author interview), I think I get it. It’s a provocative and thoughtful meditation on the nature of compassion, and in particular what that means in modern society, where the decline of so many of the institutions that used to define our lives has increasingly made life seem like a series of business transactions. Taken on those terms, it’s quite well done. I particularly liked how the author showed that Gladys could be manipulative and ungrateful, but that that doesn’t mean she doesn’t need the help.
    .
    Incidentally, my assumption is that Arty feels responsibility to show compassion because he has a job where you are expected to feel that way. If you’re expected to show compassion from 8 to 4, I imagine it’s not so easy to turn that off when you leave work.

  11. Rai July 2, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    A story where nothing happens other than what we are told that happens. A+B+C+D = ABCD. (A glazed scan at the comments that have already been posted gives me the sense I’m going to get pummeled)

    The side story that was the main story about Art and Gladys didn’t lead me anywhere. I felt sorry for them. But so what. I forgot what was up with the narrator by the time we switched back to his perspective. The ‘transcendental’ prose about the snow and the storm at the end just seemed like a cheap way out. I liked the bit about the swedish jacket. There were a couple of interesting facts. Was this story just packaging around these bits and pieces? Or something about the obligations towards the people who raise our families?

    I wasn’t sure about his last story, the Poltroon Husband. The one before that about the tracking a thief through the subway was better. But all in all….meh.

  12. Trevor July 2, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    I still get quite a lot out of this. I think part of the point — and maybe I’m giving O’Neill too much credit — is to recognize how little is going on for these two men, particularly the narrator. He has it easy and he wants it to stay that way. I think we’re supposed to be questioning Gladys and whether she’s taking advantage of Art. I’m sure the narrator thinks so and doesn’t care, but, as said above, if Gladys is genuinely in need then maybe it doesn’t matter if she’s meeting that need by taking advantage of Art. Art has some kind of guilt and he’s getting tired of that too. Better Gladys and her problems were someone else’s!

    I see this story as much more about the various conversations around people who need help, the guilt we may feel in not helping them, the excuses we come up with to avoid helping them (after all, we don’t want to become enablers!), the complacency when we can just go home, when even losing our wallet isn’t really a big deal.

    Rai, I agree with you about the prose about the snow, though, again maybe giving O’Neill too much credit, I thought it was a pretty savage way to show how pleased the narrator is to be in his own head. The narrator can afford to be trivial.

  13. David July 2, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Trevor, the reason I think you might be giving O’Neill too much credit is because I can see that he raises the issues you mention, but I don’t see that he really has anything to say about them. Here is a narrator who is so absorbed with his own now-happy family that he cannot muster the interest to hear out Arty or to take any real interest in Gladys’ plight at all. And…. that’s about it for him. About Arty, we get about the same. He is torn between wanting to help and feeling burdened and doesn’t know what to do. Great. I got that right away. All of the rest of the detail of the story of Gladys does not seem to take us any further into exploring that issue.
    .
    I am reminded here of Singer’s “The Border” a few weeks back. There he tells what I thought was a familiar conflict, but at least his two characters got to talk about it. Would it not have been more interesting if Arty had called out the narrator on his attempt to scurry away, leading to some sort of meaningful exchange on the issue of compassion and helping out? There had to be something more than what we were given he could have written. He picked a worthy subject for his story, but like the narrator leaves Arty hanging without offering much help he leaves the readers to our own devices too. Maybe Arty will go home and think that having had a chance to just say all this to the narrator really did help him get clear on what he should do and that would be great. But if he thinks Arty deserves credit for helping he’d be wrong. Similarly, I don’t know how much credit O’Neill really deserves for what you might have gotten out of this story. But the fact you did is still something.

  14. Trevor Berrett July 2, 2018 at 5:06 pm

    Would it not have been more interesting if Arty had called out the narrator on his attempt to scurry away, leading to some sort of meaningful exchange on the issue of compassion and helping out?

    I think we see the story quite differently, David, and this question helped me see some of that difference. I don’t think a more meaningful conversation about compassion would have made the story better or more interesting per se.

    I think the story is portraying a complacent state of mind (and I think it does so well) without calling it out explicitly. I think if it had done any more would have been heavy-handed and, for me, would have weakened the strengths. In not giving us more, he forces us to confront the issues: Is Gladys using Art? Is Art’s plight meaningless? Is the narrator right to just want to get away? Are we?

    I should note that my enjoyment of it was not simply a reverse-engineered “here’s what I think O’Neill was doing and I like that”; I enjoyed reading the story as I was reading it.

    I should also note I’m in danger of over-defending this story, making it sound like I value it more than I do. I don’t think it’s a masterpiece and I don’t even think it will be particularly memorable, but I think it is a successful and insightful story.

  15. mehbe July 3, 2018 at 10:01 am

    So, exactly what’s wrong with the narrator’s attitude? To me, that seems to be the point of this story, and the author doesn’t offer easy answers.

    The narrator has learned how to expect, after some turmoil in his earlier days, a nice, materially comfy existence not troubled by questions of the morality of his life in light of the suffering of others. The symbolic coat he likes so much describes his being insulated from the larger world quite nicely, and it seems to allude to a certain vogue in the last year or two for a Scandinavian concept of cozy well-being (I forgot the term for it). He’s so secure in his world that he can lose his wallet multiple times without much stress over it, fully expecting it to come back to him, simply because that’s how things work in his world. And even if it doesn’t come back, it is no big issue. It was interesting in the author interview to see that the author denied that this character is “entitled”, because it is so obvious that he is entitled in some way. It may be that O’Neill is saying that this kind of entitlement is so ordinary that it doesn’t even seem that way to those who embody it.

    Arty, on the other hand, is not a comfortable first world citizen. He cares about material inequality. He feels what he thinks is compassion, and is disappointed in his expectations that others should feel the same thing as he does. But then, it appears he’s never been at ease with his world. He is the sort who needs to be unhappy about something, and his world fills that need. He feels deeply guilty for being better off than others in the world, to the point of feeling responsible for Gladys even when he has some inklings that she is using him. I really loved his idea that Gladys doesn’t want to be this way, but has to do it to survive. That’s highly questionable, I think, but a very Arty-esque take on the situation.

    To me, Gladys is the most intriguing character in the story, even if all the information about her is second-hand. For one thing, there seem to be no questions about her being a good nanny, and is often the case, she is practically a family member. But, oddly, there are questions about her relationship to her own family. She’s apparently not treated very well by her brothers, nor by her own child. Hmmm…. Additionally, it seems she may be too trusting in some situations of institutional authority, but isn’t above using Arty to the max. Arty clearly sees her as being terribly disadvantaged by the circumstances of her birth, but some of these details make me wonder about how much of the disadvantage is of her own creation. Her world is, in some way, conforming to her own view of it, I think, just as is the case for Arty and the narrator.

  16. Trevor Berrett July 3, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    You state a lot of what I’m feeling without being able to, mehbe!

    I think we see Arty a bit differently, though. I think he was willing to help up to a point, and now he’s out of that comfort zone and doesn’t know how to get out. I think he’s looking for help, maybe an excuse to stop caring for Gladys, but he’s not getting that from our narrator.

  17. Larry Bone July 4, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    The comments assessing this story demonstrate why Mookse is such a great website. Most every part of the story is taken up for consideration with great insights on how certain aspects either helped illuminate the author’s purpose or objective or sort of might have had the reader treading water a little or perhaps have him or her stuck out in the middle of the ocean of a story.

    The story itself is like an incident that occurred and is viewed differently by all the witnesses/readers. There is the first comment, an FIR (first information report) filed at the police station indicating what happened and what was involved. Then there are additional FIRs that may somewhat agree or disagree with the first one but can offer additional thoughts and perspectives.

    It may not be the perfect story that wins the World Cup of Short Stories but on the whole it earns a significant victory sort of like Mexico beating previous World Cup Champion, Germany.

    It has a great title, “The First World,” which is a vaguely scientific way of classifying a person’s social existence by observing the various life relationships of a person as though he were a metaphorical onion. The center core being his relationship to himself. This narrative concerns the first world, seemingly one of secure complacency for the first person protagonist. Then you have his relationship with other men, like his relationship with Arty. With women, like his ex wife and his current wife and then the relationship with his son. And you have the relationship with one’s job (Arty with his job), and finally the relationship with nature or the universe within which one lives, which is derived from the how the footprints inthe snow look (from which the narrator draws part of his complacency). Arty, the nanny, the ex-wives, the narrator; each leaves a different sort of footprint in the snow. Arty and his friend, the protagonist, are two different sorts of people with different ideas of what one’s responsibilities to others should be.

    The protagonist and Arty are like two first world’s talking with or at each other within the basic cohesion of a friendly relationship. This story also seems a meditation on the middle income middle class (not particularly poor but not particularly rich either). While there are some dysfunctional barriers, the protagonist has remarried and somewhat achieved the ideal middle class existence as opposed to Arty, whose survival is as not as assured because of the responsibilities he feels toward his former nanny.

    This story spotlights the dilemma that immigrants contributing to American society face and what responsibilities should a host nation have? One can see Arty as generous and responsible or the victim of a con and the narrator seeming quite selfish.

    Nothing much happens in this story which might make it seem bland to readers. Yet it is a very well-observed and crafted description of a particular social class considered in much of its variety.

    As a class, the mid-middle class seems bland and uninteresting because they seem to purposely live small as in not taking any undue risks and addressing only life’s necessaries such as an income, a decent marriage or relationship and at least adequately bringing up one’s children.

    So the story appeals as a schematic of men, women, social responsibilities amid one’s relationship to one’s own and other’s universes. It is well paced and well structured. The author expresses the protagonist’s thoughts and conclusions with a keen simplistic precision making his narrative unspool with the ease and particularity of an offhand barroom conversation.

    O’Neill includes a kind of short dictionary for the subtle different expressions of common or unique human nature within what the characters think about, say or how they act.

  18. Arleen July 4, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    I should begin by saying I am keen on O’Neill’s short stories, and feel fortunate that the New Yorker has offered three in fairly quick succession. I revisited them because of some of the comments in this forum (thanks Rai) and believe I have found a common thread. I think in each one he explores our failure to connect. It is as if O’Neill is revisiting and extending E. M. Forster’s idea of “Only connect” a hundred years later.

    In “The Sinking of the Houston” the Dad and his sons seem disconnected by their addiction to & reliance on cyberspace. After his son’s cell is stolen the dad becomes obsessed with tracking the bully-thief who has his son’s cell. Eventually on the day it is actually possible for dad to apprehend the thief because the thief is in his turf, the dad spontaneously abandons his plan because the streets are too busy.
    He meets a neighbour by chance; they go for coffee and the dad connects with this neighbour and they talk all about the neighbour’s war experiences.

    In “The Poltroon Husband” the husband has a mental/physical whiteout in bed at night and is unable to act or defend his home against an intruder. He then disconnects from his wife emotionally. He decides not to talk to her about the incident; he changes his night time routine and physically separates himself so that he can watch over the house as evening falls. Why does he do this? from embarrassment? fear of aging? old-fashioned pride?

    “The First World” presents us with two guy friends who have a drink together and try to catch up. They don’t listen to each other or engage with each other despite being together for three drinks.
    Interestingly, one of the guys has a monetary connection to a former nanny and he persists with this although he is under no obligation. This not a friendship; it is more like a self-imposed debt. The narrator is happy to depart, get back to his own interior musings, and forget about his pal.

    I think these stories explore the idea of being together, yet apart. In each story there seems to be a conscious decision to connect or disconnect, but the decision is made in a fairly random way. It does not seem to be made out of loyalty or duty or principle. The irony is that in our modern, cyber world we think we are more “connected” than ever. Maybe that is up for discussion.

  19. Larry Bone July 5, 2018 at 12:19 am

    I would totally agree with the irony that in our cyber world we might seem more connected but aren’t. But the problem is that with the internet, everyone seems to become more introverted than extroverted reverting to the primacy of their own world over anyone else’s and in that way, we may harm our relationships by possibly becoming more slightly inhumane towards others. The various disconnects may be the overall theme that ties the three O’Neill stories together. It is quite a relevant theme with all that is happening around us. Perhaps some of the best writing analyzes gradual shifts within the woof and warp of how our society functions both as reflected on the internet and how we relate to one another in various relationships. Almost any relationship seems so much more problematic than it ever was 10 or 20 years ago as though there is not only a disconnection but an actual breakdown in communication.

  20. Greg July 5, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Thank you everyone for all of your opinions!

    In addition to the quotes already shared, this following one stood out to me for showing the narrator’s state of mind (Thanks Mehbe for ‘pointing me the way’!):

    “With some pleasure, I put on my new coat – my parka, as I should call it. It is so warm and snug that I actually look forward to cold days.”

    Lastly, this part of the author interview cut deep with me:

    “I was specifically interested, writing this story, in our nationalization of ethics—in the notion, which, of course, is only worsening, that foreign parts and foreigners are somehow beyond the jurisdiction of right and wrong, or, indeed, that the very impulse to care for the other not only is radically qualified by the foreignness of the other but that to care for that other is positively wrong. It makes me sick, to be honest.”

  21. Larry Bone July 5, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    Greg,
    Thanks for citing that last particular author interview quote. It confirms the thoughts of commenters and seems to place the ill effects of foreigness not only in unfamiliar language or nationality but in almost anything in another person that can push us away from them or caring enough about them. Mentally the push away forestalls any meaningful communication. The much more than usual number of people commenting indicates that the theme and how it is expressed really reaches out to readers and also reflects the strength in how the story is structured.
    Larry B.

  22. Arleen July 5, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    WELL said Larry,
    I engage here only when a story intrigues me or makes me question, or when I have to say “That story was just bloody fabulous” …but I must say I do love this sharing, and know from past posts that I have learned so much from other opinions.

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