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Dance in America

August 20, 2008

A few weeks ago I discovered the New Yorker fiction podcast and my hour-long commute home has become much more pleasant. Each month Deborah Treisman, fiction editor at the New Yorker, invites an author to choose a short-story published by the New Yorker, read it, and discuss the work and the author. There are close to two-years of back issues available for download from iTunes and, as far as I can tell, they are all worth hearing. It is wonderful to hear how authors interpret the voice of other author’s characters. Each installment I’ve heard has impressed me with the ability the authors have to read a story and make it sound interesting.

There is one episode, called “This Is It,” that I have listened to at least four times because it is so captivating. It is a reading by Louise Erdrich of Lorrie Moore’s “Dance in America.” The story is about a dancer who catches up with a friend from her past, Cal. Eugene is Cal’s seven-year-old son who has Cystic Fibrosis. The story is equal parts heartbreak and humor. Moore’s characters, overall, are occasionally criticized as too bleak and yuppieish but this story is fantastic. As Erdrich points out, Moore is uniquely able to show flashes of brilliant humor within her meaningful storyline. Moore’s concise control of time and emotion shines through her accessible prose.

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