“A Small Flame”
by Yiyun Li
from the May 8, 2017 issue of The New Yorker
Folks were mixed at best when Li’s last story — “On the Street Where You Lived” (post here) — appeared in The New Yorker. Let’s hope she gets a warmer reception with “A Small Flame.”
As per usual, I’m just excited because a genuine short story writer is appearing in the pages this week, someone who has looked to William Trevor for inspiration. This story explicitly pays homage to my favorite William Trevor story (indeed, my favorite short story, I think) “The Piano Tuner’s Wives” (my thoughts here). According to Li’s interview with Cressida Leyshon (here), a week after Trevor died Li decided to write a story with a character named Bella (a slight variation on Belle, from Trevor’s story). That may be where the explicit homage stops, but I’m betting there’s more than a flavor of Trevor in “A Small Flame.” And from the interview we might expect some Hans Christian Andersen, Chekhov, and D.H. Lawrence as well.
It looks promising. And I am excited for the conversation below!