‘A Room Forever’ by Breece D’J Pancake

A Room Forever by Breece D’J Pancake, 1983

The magic trick:

Having the narrator comment on the depressing scene around him, while somehow managing to rationalize his own place in that gloom

It’s almost cruel to post this on New Year’s Eve, a day and night worthy of joyous celebration for most.

I apologize.

This is – and I say this with no exaggeration – the bleakest story I have ever read.

It is, however, set on New Year’s Eve.

So here we are.

It’s a dark story. It’s depressing. It’s incredibly disturbing. Incredibly so.

It also happens to be very well written.

Our narrator sees the depression around him. He observes it. He feels it.

Crucially though, he doesn’t seem to think he’s part of it. He has rationalized his own behavior as acceptable; rationalized his own state as temporary. The disconnect is jarring and adds an even sadder layer of depression to the entire mix.

Happy New Year.

And that’s quite a trick on Pancake’s part.

The selection:

I look around. All these people have come down from their flops because there are no parties for them to go to. They are strangers who play a little pool or pinball, drink a little booze. All year they grit their teeth – they pump gas and wait tables and screw chippies and bait queers, and they don’t like any of it, but they know they are lucky to get it.

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