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Lore Segal

November 6, 2014

Other people’s deaths are ones that do not belong to you. They are not your death. You are still alive. You are reading a short story. You are reading it on the internet. You are reading this sentence:
“They stood for a moment, they talked, not accounting to themselves for the intense charm of the summer hill rising behind Ilka’s house, of standing, of breathing—of the glamour of being alive.”
In the last story, the wife died. This time, the husband.
There are 3,010 more words in this story than the last one. But you don’t know how much more there is too it except names.
You like this paragraph:
“They found a couple of bricks, piled one on top of the other, and took turns standing on them to look in the window. Those were the stairs the dead man must have walked up and down on. There was a little table with a telephone on it, and a chair. Had the dead man sat on that exact chair and lifted that phone to his ear?”
You don’t know what the point is of this story, of any story. You don’t know why you have written stories and sent them out to publishers, even the one that published the story you are now reading. You have lost track of communicating anything to anyone, like how Dr. Stone does not know how to express anything to the widow.
You finish the story, liking it more at the end than you did at any point reading it. You could sense the accrual of your appreciation for the story, even though you couldn’t define any particular element that turned you towards liking the story. It grew on you.
You have no idea what makes this story a good one, if that is what it is. The New Yorker is known for being a sort of bar for writers. A kind of status that guarantees certain things. But what those things are, what this story possesses that merits its publication, you couldn’t begin to try to understand.
You click on the icon at the bottom of the story that connects you to the author’s other stories and you see that they are all about Ilka. It makes you feel something you can’t define. These stories were published periodically since 1981. How does it affect the reading of this story?

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