“Ross Perot and China”
by Ben Lerner
from the May 27, 2019 issue of The New Yorker

It’s not that a title has to pull me in . . . I thought before seeing “Ross Perot and China” and thinking then and there that I’d never read this story. That was even before I saw that this was an excerpt of his forthcoming novel, The Topeka School. Does anyone else want to read a short story (that’s not a short story) called “Ross Perot and China”?

But it does have a catchy beginning:

They were drifting on her stepfather’s boat in the middle of an otherwise empty man-made lake encircled by large tract houses. It was early autumn and they were drinking Southern Comfort from the bottle. Adam was in the front of the boat watching a changeable blue light across the water that was probably a television seen through a window or a glass door. He heard the scrape of her lighter, then saw smoke float over him, unravel. For a long time he had been speaking.

When he turned to see what effect his speech had had, she was gone, jeans and sweater in a little pile with the pipe and lighter.

Still, I haven’t read the story yet, and I’m not sure I will. Perhaps some of you can help me see if I’m missing out.

On that note, I’ve read only a few short stories by Lerner. I’ve never read his two novels, Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04, which I know have been received positively. I’m also curious how those of you who have read them feel about the novels and this excerpt from The Topeka School.

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