“Son of Friedman”
by Emma Cline
from the July 1, 2019 issue of The New Yorker
This is Emma Cline’s third story to appear in The New Yorker since her breakthrough novel, The Girls, came out in 2016. I’m afraid I’ve yet to read a one, but this one is about the movie business — or, at least, takes place in that world — so I’m keen to check her work out finally.
Here are the story’s opening lines, which introduce us to George Friedman, a film producer:
The light in the restaurant was golden light, heavy light—an outdated sort of light, honestly, popular in the nineties but now a remnant of a kind of gaudy, old-school pleasure it was no longer fashionable to enjoy. It had been five years, maybe more, since George had been to this place. It was true that the food was not very good. Big steaks, creamed vegetables, drizzles of raspberry coulis over everything, all the food you ate back then because caring about what you ate wasn’t yet part of having money. Still, he liked the fleshy Mayan shrimp on ice, the gratifying emptiness when the meat popped from the socket. He wiped his fingers, tight from lemon juice and shrimp, on the napkin in his lap.
However successful he’s been, George is on his way out. He’s getting old and he no longer has the clout he once possessed. When we meet him he’s been waiting twenty minutes for an actor. He’s got his ultimate demise on his mind too:
The scientist wrote about hovering above his own life, seeing each part of it like a dream from which he would soon wake. This is just a dream, George told himself. It’s all vapor. George had squeezed out nothing but a vague awareness of the grammatical errors in the text. Some lines of inquiry were not ultimately helpful. He was on his second Martini. Another thing that used to be stylish and had fallen out of favor. The antiseptic chill, the bracing rinse—why had he ever stopped drinking them?
From her interview, I understand that this is going to some more uncomfortable places. George’s son has taken on filmmaking and the film will debut later. Apparently it doesn’t go well. Let’s see what happens . . .
Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts on this story or Emma Cline’s work in general.