"A Death in Kitchawank" by T. Coraghessan Boyle Originally published in the January 18, 2010 issue of The New Yorker. Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage.
Besides the great short fiction, there is another benefit to reading fiction in The New Yorker: you get a chance to sample the writing of someone you otherwise would never read. I have never read a book or short story by T.C. Boyle. Frankly, there has never even been the temptation to read one of his books, except for World’s End, and that’s just because it won the PEN/Faulkner. From what I’ve heard of his work, it doesn’t appeal to me.
But then I get the chance to try it here with “A Death in Kitchawank.” I’m afraid I still feel no need to read his work.
The arch of the story takes place over a number of years in a small lake-side community that has to import its hundreds of billions of grains of sand every few years after it has blown away into the grass. That is a nice visual, and it is particularly nice as it also describes the passage of time in this piece. Slow and steady, and always taking things with it. Not only does time cause the characters to drift away as they grow, but we know from the title that somewhere a death is going to happen.
The piece is written well, but to me it was too slow, bogged down by details I didn’t care about. I got really tired while reading it — and I’m pretty sure that was caused by the story and not by anything else. It felt, not unpleasantly at times, that I was sitting in the warm sun on a lakeside, drifting away — but that’s not what I’m looking for when I read.