‘An Evening Out’ by Garth Greenwell

An Evening Out by Garth Greenwell, 2017

The magic trick:

Clear break between the realism section and the part where we are expected to interpret a metaphor

“An Evening Out” is as detailed as it is realistic for most of its running time, telling us the story of a night out on the town in Belgrade spent among a teacher, his students, and some highly dubious ethics.

Everything feels reported directly as it might have happened. There is little subtext; even less metaphor.

So it’s almost jarring when the story closes with a section that finds our narrator cuddling up with his dog, and we find our role as a reader has completely changed.

Clearly, this situation with the dog requires more work from us than the “just the facts” style did previously in the story. We have to analyze and interpret now, whereas before we only had to continually update our mental picture of the story’s events.

It’s an interesting bifurcation.

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

The selection:

Let’s go, Z. said then, and he set off quickly, so that N. and I struggled to keep up. E, kopele, N. said, bastard, slow down, why are you rushing, and Z. turned and smiled, still walking, moving backward along the street. We don’t want to be late, we’ll miss the show, he said. He made a motion with his hips, a little Turkish shimmy, before he turned back around. The club was a short walk away, on Tsar Osvoboditel Boulevard, part of a complex that included one of the city’s fanciest hotels. We showed our lichni karti to the two men stationed at the door, their torsos obscene with muscle, and then descended a long carpeted staircase that was lit dimly by red lights set high along the walls. The music got louder as we approached the glass doors separating the corridor from the club proper, and it overwhelmed me as Z. pulled them open and we stepped into a cavernous, dark room strafed by lights that spun somewhere above us.

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