The story is enough.

The story is enough.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

"Cold Little Bird" by Ben Marcus

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This story can be found in the October 19, 2015 issue of The New Yorker magazine. 

First Line: "It started with bedtime.  A coldness.  A formality."

Last Line: "On the cover a boy, arms outspread, was gripping wires in each hand, and his whole body was glowing."

I have not been so stunned and haunted by a short story since I read Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" in high school. 

And I mean that in a good way - in a "falling over and dripping with inexpressible words of praise" kind of way.


Read it AND listen to it on SoundCloud.


A story with no real resolution at the end (amazing Chekhovian style!), and a possibility of hope, but that even that possibility isn't solid. The only solid thing here is hurt.  It is the only thing that is tangible and seemingly immovable.

This story is not "inventive" - who said that fiction is more honest than truth?  "Cold Little Bird" is realistic with spot-on dialogue, eerie insight into the mind of the male protagonist, and a truthful examination of the affects a child's troubles can have on a marriage, a family.

A husband and wife and their two sons.  One very normal.  One very not - or is he just "sarcastic" or "acting out" because of his parents' tensions?  

Martin and Rachel respond to Jonah differently - and that is to be expected.  One parent is a man and the other is a woman.  And their reactions to each other's response is completely understandable.  The influence we have on those we love is fantastically deeper than we can imagine.

"Grow-Light Blues" is the only other Ben Marcus story I have read... but I am convinced of his power as a story-teller.  His tales are timely and well-crafted, touching uncomfortable topics in a unique way...

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