“Suffocation Theory”
by David Rabe
from the October 12, 2020 issue of The New Yorker

David Rabe, at 80, has really burst back onto the scene with his third story in The New Yorker in just over a year. Here we have “Suffocation Therapy.” I’ve been (and this is getting to be a familiar refrain) very busy the past several weeks, so I have not been keeping up and have not read this one yet. Rabe’s interview with Deborah Treisman does introduce the story nicely, though. And here is how it begins, with an introduction to a world that reminds me of Mad Max:

Amanda surprised me when she said we had to move. I’d barely got in the door, barely been in the hallway of our apartment a second, when she passed in and out of my peripheral vision, catching sight of me, I guess, and making her announcement. I’d been planning to take off my shoes and flop down with a cup of coffee and watch the news on TV — one blast of terrible news after another. I didn’t know what the terrible news would be today, but I knew it would be terrible. Car crashes would be the least of it. Accidental ones, anyway. It had become common for people in cars to mow other people down. But that wasn’t the only thing. There were terrorists and gun battles in shopping malls. Locals and tourists in Malaysia and Mali and London and Paris fleeing, stampeding as soldiers ducked behind jewelry displays and fast-food counters, hunting down militants in one boutique after another. Bombs were often involved.

That’s just a sample of the first paragraph. Skimming, I see a lot of longer paragraphs here, suggesting Rabe is working more closely in the style of “Things We Worried About When I Was Ten” rather than the more clipped, dialogue-heavy “Uncle Jim Called.”

I think Rabe is doing great work, and I’m excited to see how folks like this one. Not many commented on the other two stories, though I quite liked them myself, so I’m curious if it’s just me enjoying Rabe’s resurgence.

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