“How Did We Come to Know You?”
by Keith Gessen
from the April 16, 2018 issue of The New Yorker
I believe it has been a long time since Keith Gessen published any of his own fiction. He’s often in the pages of The New Yorker or The London Review of Books, but usually it’s for criticism or for an essay. I also know his name as a translator, particularly of Svetlana Alexievich’s fantastic Voices of Chernobyl. However, this is his first piece of fiction for The New Yorker, and, to my knowledge, the first fiction at all since he published his novel All the Sad Young Literary Men ten years ago in 2008, the same year he was named a “5 under 35” by the National Book Foundation, the same year he and Emily Gould, his wife now, were the subject of some very unfortunate internet vitriol.
Incidentally, “How Did We Come to Know You?” also takes place in 2008.
Here’s how it begins:
I was sitting in the kitchen one evening, checking my e-mail, when my grandmother told me she was going for a walk. It was snowing a little, and slippery—I could see that—but it wasn’t too slippery. Despite the cold, my grandmother had been out earlier to get some groceries and had done just fine. I felt like I should go with her, but I also wanted to continue checking my e-mail. Was I just going to spend my whole life going out with my grandmother whenever the notion struck her? That was no way to live. I went over and kissed her on the forehead and told her to have a good walk.
This is an excerpt from his forthcoming novel, A Terrible Country, coming from Viking in July.
Please join in the discussion below and let us know what you think of the story.