Waiting by Stuart Dybek, 2009
The magic trick:
Putting the story within a literary context even as it unfolds
Well, today is an easy blog post. Mr. Dybek does my job for me. The story veers back and forth between sections of fiction – a story remembering an on-again/off-again relationship the narrator had with a woman, as I’m sure Dybek fans will be shocked to note – and sections of essay about different forms and examples of waiting in classic literature, particularly the works of Hemingway. Normally, I’d be nauseated at the idea of an artist laying out word for word how I’m supposed to be understanding the work of art at hand. But as with most things Dybekian, what sounds laughably pretentious on paper, sings in print. And that’s quite a trick on Dybek’s part.
I read an essay once – I don’t recall who wrote it – about waiting in Hemingway. There’s that couple at the station in “Hills Like White Elephants” waiting for the express from Barcelona, and the little boy with the fever who is waiting to die in “A Day’s Wait.” That situation, waiting to die, is one Hemingway returned to often, as in “The Snows Of Kilimanjaro, when the man with a gangrened leg is recalling his youth in Paris; nor is he waiting alone – the hyenas and vultures are waiting, too. In other stories, the men are alone. Nick Adams waits out the night in “A Way You’ll Never Be.” In “The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio,” Mr. Frazer listens to a hospital radio that plays only at night – a clever touch – as he waits out the pain of his fractured leg. All these characters have, in one way or another, been wounded.