Farwell by Stuart Dybek, 1990
The magic trick:
Using a beautiful first sentence to establish the mood
Every once in awhile these days I get a little sick of short stories. Hard to believe given the blog, but it happens. In those instances I turn to Stuart Dybek. Maybe it’s because his work is so fresh and original. Or maybe it’s simply that the stories are just that good. Whatever it is, I dove into the wonderful The Coast Of Chicago collection this week, and I’m back on track.
The collection alternates between short pieces and more standard length stories. “Farwell” opens the collection, and it’s one of the short ones. I was hooked in the first sentence, so I won’t even mention anything else. Dybek is the absolute master of making dreamworlds out of weather. Fogs. Sleet. Rain. Snow. You name it; he can do it.
I’ll finish with the opening line itself: “Tonight, a steady drizzle, streetlights smoldering in fog like funnels of light collecting rain.” And that’s quite a trick on Dybek’s part.
The bronze light was back on in his apartment, which seemed furnished with books. Books in various languages lined the walls and were stacked along the floor. His furniture was crates of more books, the stock left from a small Russian bookstore he’d opened then closed after receiving threats and a bomb in the mail.