by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
from the April 27, 2020 issue of The New Yorker
More often than not I really like Bynum’s strange fairy tales, and I’m very excited to see she has a new collection, Likes, coming out this fall. “Bedtime Story,” despite its title, doesn’t sound like one of her dark fables. I haven’t read it yet, so I could be wrong. I hope it has some of that flavor.
Ah, reading the first paragraph suggests it does, if subtly:
One long winter night, Ezra Washington’s wife walks in on him telling their younger child stories from his rollerblading days. The room is as dark as a coal mine and his voice floats sonorously from somewhere in the vicinity of the trundle bed. He is remembering a time long before the child was born, a time when he was a poor graduate student living in New York City with nothing but his own body and mind for entertainment. Saturdays were spent in the narrow park that runs alongside the Hudson River, blading up and down the path very fast, as if his happiness depended on it.
By the way, in her interview with Willing Davidson (here), Bynum says this story was partly inspired by Mavis Gallant’s “The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street,” which was published in The New Yorker in the December 14, 1963 issue. I’m still not too familiar with Gallant’s work, but so many folks I respect love her stories. I have a bunch published in a few collections by NYRB Classics, so maybe it’s time to get them out and really dive in.
At any rate, I look forward to this story and to your thoughts below. I hope you’re starting a good week!