“What’s the Deal, Hummingbird?”
by Arthur Krystal
from the January 24, 2022 issue of The New Yorker

For a couple of decades, Arthur Krystal has been a critic and essayist, with many pieces showing up in Harper’s, The New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, and The New Yorker, among others. He has published Agitations: Essays on Life and Literature (2002), The Half-Life of an American Essayist (2007), Except When I Write: Reflections of a Recovering Critic (2011) and This Thing We Call Literature (2016). I think this is the first time any of his fiction has shown up in The New Yorker. I don’t know his work at all, but I like the way “What’s the Deal, Hummingbird?” starts and look forward to finishing it:

On or around May 5th of 2020, he just stopped. He stopped exercising, stopped walking, stopped reading, stopped planning. He ate, drank, washed, and paid the bills, but that was it. He was seventy-three. He’d spent more than 38,368,800 minutes on earth, only a precious few of which he remembered. That’s what hit him one evening, after the cheering and clanking of pots and pans had died down: a vast chunk of his life—the greater part of his life—might as well never have occurred. Not just the time spent sleeping but those millions of minutes spanning lunches, dinners, meetings, concerts, marriage, work, books, movies, conversations—all gone. What remained? A bird’s breath of his existence.

Have you read anything by Krystal? What do you think of this story. I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments below.

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