The Young Painters by Nicole Krauss, 2010
The magic trick:
Sending the narrator into confusion over the meaning of a particular interaction
Honorable mention magic tricks?
- the framing of the story as an explanation – or defense? – addressed to the mysterious “Your Honor”
- the classic use of a story within the story
But the winning magic trick?
Let’s talk about the way the narrator’s final interaction with the dancer ends. He tells her, “But after a while I understood what your story had made so clear to me.”
She wants to ask, “What?” but doesn’t. The question lingers, and she writes of her angst in trying to figure out what it all meant.
This, of course, sends the reader down the same path. Why, we wonder, did he react like that? What could this mean?
Soon, the reader is analyzing the narrator’s reaction to the dancer’s reaction to her story which was of course a reaction to the story the dancer had told at a party, which the reader has already been trying to process for several pages.
It’s a lot of layers, folks.
And that’s quite a trick on Krauss’s part.
The story was accepted by a prominent magazine. I didn’t call the dancer before it was published, nor did I send him a copy of the story. He lived through it, and I made use of it, embellishing it as I saw fit. Viewed in a certain light, that is the kind of work I do, Your Honor. When I received a copy of the magazine, I did wonder for a moment if the dancer would see it and how it would make him feel. But I did not spend very long on the thought, basking instead in the pride of seeing my work printed in the magazine. I didn’t run into the dancer for some time after that, nor did I think about what I would say if I did. Furthermore, after the story was published I stopped thinking about the mother and her children who had burned to death in a car, as if by writing about them I had made them disappear.
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