The story is enough.

The story is enough.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"Escape from New York" by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith NBCC 2011 Shankbone.jpg
"Escape from New York" by Zadie Smith can be found in the June 7, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.

First Line: "It had been a very long time since he'd been responsible for another human."

Last Line: "I know."

Initial impression?

I think I tricked myself into some sort of word association at first – Instead of Escape from New York, it registered in my brain as something similar to Escape from Alcatraz.  It isn’t that.

It was a comedy set into motion by a tragedy.  This story examined the way we search ourselves, our companions, when terror strikes and there is a moment, many moments, to reflect.

I listened to it on the SoundCloud provided as I was unloading groceries.  I kept becoming upset with Zadie Smith for the ultra-feminine voice she used for the character of Michael.  It was quite distracting.  As a writer, a storyteller, couldn’t she fashion another voice for him?  And then I read the Page-Turner interview with her, and discovered that the high-pitched voice was intended to be the voice of Michael Jackson.  Marlon was Brandon and Elizabeth was Liz Taylor.

Then the story changed even more in my head!  It became more amusing, and yet more tragic. 

The constant fast-food trips – not coming to a unified plan and then eating and waiting for the next meal – sounded child-like, continuing the sensation I had after the first paragraph that the narrator was a man-child.  Someone who should be able to function normally, but didn’t… couldn’t.

I was unsure why I was listening to a story about the extremely wealthy and recognizable.   There was a part of me that did not care about their experience with 9/11.  But I was drawn in by the macabre humor that comes only when fear, grief, are too deep to bear. 

I enjoyed it.  It was a story – almost like “stories” we read when younger – fantastic, whimsical, true emotion, not cluttered with long scenery and weather…

It was light.  It was simple.  It was well-written.  An expansion on an urban myth that ended with a beautiful paragraph.  Ah, the wry pleasures in being "normal" and suffering in the exact way everyone else is….

I will read it once again - with images of Thriller, The Godfather, and National Velvet in my head…

This post can also be found at The Mookse and the Gripes.

photo from

1 comment: