by Caleb Crain
from the September 26, 2022 issue of The New Yorker

I have not heard of Caleb Crain before seeing that his work was being published in The New Yorker this week. He is the author of two novels — Necessary Errors (2013) and Overthrown (2019) — and he has bylines for book reviews and essays in The New YorkerThe New York Review of BooksThe New York Times Book ReviewThe London Book Review, etc. Clearly I haven’t been paying attention! As great as it is to see an old favorite author come out with new work in The New Yorker, I am just as excited to get to know someone completely new to me.

Here is how “Easter” begins:

On the plane from Houston to Fort Worth, 21F turned out to be a window seat. Jacob shrugged out of his backpack and swung it down the row.

He wasn’t stoned, but he had been stoned recently and still had the residual exhausted dissociated calm of someone who had recently been stoned. A state of mind that was milder and lacked any spasms of paranoia. Kind of better, actually. He kept being reminded—because every flight echoes every other flight, on account of the sameness of the costumes and rituals—of how thickly, blockily stoned he had been on the plane he had taken from Massachusetts to Houston, a few days earlier, and the memory dropped another light scrim of defamiliarization between him and the world. During that flight, everyone seemed to be aware that he was thinking about the black plastic film cannister of weed, its rubbery gray cap hopefully airtight, that he had tucked in among the socks in his suitcase just before leaving his dorm. Would the authorities find it? Was a police officer going to come shoving down the aisle? He had tried not to care that the workings of his mind were visible. Even if people could see, most of them would be constrained from saying that they could by its being impolite to say so—as impolite as saying you can see a stranger’s underwear. And people would be especially constrained on an airplane, where custom seems to have preserved as if in amber the manners that obtained when air travel first became common. The nineteen-forties, probably.

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