by Joseph O’Neill
from the November 11, 2019 issue of The New Yorker
This week we get a new story by Joseph O’Neill. I’ve said it here a number of times over the years, but it’s worth saying again for those who don’t know or don’t remember. I read Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland in July 2008, the first month of this blog. Hearing his name always takes me back, particularly because I was reading it at the hospital when my second son was born, my son who happens to be named Holland (I promise it wasn’t in homage to O’Neill’s book, but I like how it all lined up). I thought the book was tremendous. I haven’t read it since, but I still think back on it fondly.
Unfortunately, I haven’t really liked O’Neill’s work since, and that includes a number of his stories that have appeared in The New Yorker in the ensuing decade.
“The Flier” might be different. Here’s how it begins:
The whole business led my wife to suggest a conference with our dear friends Pam and Becky, who were discreet and worldly and kind. She wrote them:
Hey wonderful people! Can we drag you over for dinner Wednesday? Short notice — but there’s something we’d like to talk over with you.
I prepared the meal — cucumber soup, grilled chicken breast, and a lentil-and-scallion salad. Cooking had been Viki’s thing, not mine, but I’d been stuck at home for months and the kitchen had become a place of recreation. Also, my relationship with my body had changed.
Pam and Becky arrived on the dot, at seven. My illness had made me very small and very light, and they embraced me gently.
I’m immediately intrigued. What is the “whole business”? What might require a conference with friends who were “discreet and worldly and kind.” What is going on with the narrator’s body. I’ve read enough to know the answers to those questinos, but I don’t know the answer to this question: Will the story pay off?
As you can see from when I post this, it’s another busy week that has distracted me from doing even minimal work here on the blog. I’m truly hopeful this is all going to change and I can get back in rhythm. I need it!
But, in the meantime, take it away! What do you think of “The Flier”?