Chopin In Winter by Stuart Dybek, 1990
The magic trick:
Using music to intertwine characters and ideas
I haven’t read enough short stories that feature music. How is that possible? Surely they’re out there. I must be reading the wrong stuff. “Chopin In Winter” connects music beautifully to the plot.
Like many Dybek stories, various characters and ideas move through the story passing each other in invisible hallways made of metaphor and symbolism. Or something like that. He is always making connections or suggestions that the reader makes connections.
In “Chopin In Winter” the lonely sounds of Chopin on the piano drifting through the apartment building connect the boy with his dead father and with his uncle and the Old World he’ll never really know and the feelings of romantic love he won’t yet truly know for a few more years. It isn’t the most successful web of beauty knitted by the author in the wonderful Coast Of Chicago collection, but it ranks right up there. And that’s quite a trick on Dybek’s part.
Marcy’s window was above mine. The music traveled down as clearly as Marcy said my crying had traveled up. When I closed my eyes I could imagine sitting on the Oriental carpet beside her huge piano.