Winter In Yalta by Antonya Nelson, 2014
The magic trick:
Hitting the reset button on everything you learned about the characters
If Lorrie Moore can put her own spin on Nabokov’s “Symbols And Signs” (“Referential”), then why can’t Antonya Nelson take on Nabokov’s “Spring In Fialta”? Pretty cool reinterpretation, if you ask me.
So yesterday we looked at a Nelson story, “Literally,” that established a drastic premise (the recent death of a mom) and showed how that tragedy could inform the family’s day-to-day life. Today’s story is kind of the opposite. Nelson works very hard to establish backstories for her protagonists, Cara and Rochelle. They have been best friends since college, and we learn quite a lot about how their lives and that friendship have developed. All of which gets totally rocked near the end by a drastic change in the premise. The reveal drastically changes our perception of the backstories we’ve just sorted out, almost to the point where we need to go back and reread the entire story. And that’s quite a trick on Nelson’s part.
“Out of shape, a little bald, with a few missing teeth. I tried for a while to pay for replacements, but you know Louis.”
“No,” Cara said stiffly, “I don’t know Louis.”