In the years leading up to his debut story collection, Brief Encounters with the Enemy, The New Yorker doled out four of Saïd Sayrafiezadeh’s stories, but the last appeared in 2014. I don’t remember the details of those four stories, but I feel a positive vibe toward Sayrafiezadah, so I’m looking forward to “Audition.” I looked to see if he’d been working on a novel, and if “Audition” was an excerpt, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
In “Audition” our narrator is a nineteen-year-old man named Duncan. He had dreams of becoming a serious stage actor, but, well, that isn’t happening yet:
The first time I smoked crack cocaine was the spring I worked construction for my father on his new subdivision in Moonlight Heights. My original plan had been to go to college, specifically for the arts, specifically for acting, where I’d envisioned strolling shoeless around campus with a notepad, jotting down details about the people I observed so that I would later be able to replicate the human condition onscreen with nuance and veracity. Instead, I was unmatriculated and nineteen, working six days a week, making eight dollars an hour, no more or less than what the other general laborers were being paid, and which is what passed, at least for my self-made father, as fairness. Occasionally, I would be cast in a community-theatre production of Neil Simon or “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” popular but uncomplicated fare, which we would rehearse for a month before performing in front of an audience of fifteen. “You have to pay your dues,” the older actors would tell me, sensing, I suppose, my disappointment and impatience. “How long is that going to take?” I’d ask them, as if they spoke from high atop the pinnacle of show business. In lieu of an answer, they offered a tautology. “It takes as long as it takes,” they’d say.
I hope “Audition” is a good one and look forward to your thoughts. I hope it inspires some of you to go check out more of his work.