Sarah Braunstein sul «New Yorker»

La nostra scrittrice Sarah Braunstein ha appena pubblicato un suo racconto (Marjorie Lemke) sul prestigioso settimanale americano «The New Yorker», la storia di «un lento, triste, ordinario declino».
Eccone due estratti:

She was only twenty but had an old person’s name. How she despised her name: its merry singsong, its too many vowels, its very M.L., benign initials that in fourth grade inspired Tommy Sugarman to crow, «Major Loser, Major Loser, Major Loser.» Was she a loser? Yes. Now. But then? An eight-year-old in nubby knit tights, a girl with glistening pigtails who carried a Muppets lunchbox? No. Back then she had been merely a girl. A girl with a certain open-eyed, owlish look, good posture, a knack for the Rubik’s Cube. […] She had not yet become a pregnant nineteen-year-old.

He was Butter Rum all the way. She was a Sweet Tarts and Laffy Taffy girl. In the motel bed, fully clothed, leaning against the headboard, they started by talking candy. As a kid she’d loved black licorice in the shape of an old-fashioned pipe. Sherlock Holmes candy. Did he remember it? He did, but black licorice tasted like paint to him. Next they examined the easy things: hairlines, knuckles, years then it was time to show, just a little. He pointed to his appendix scar and the glazed place on his back wherein iron once passed, the tattoo of an ox on his upper arm. She unbuttoned her uniform and there, on the warm saddle of her belly, where the stretch marks. When looking felt like too much, they talked again. He wanted to know if she had any nicknames. No, she said. She didn’t say that Clive used to call her Buttercup.

Sempre nello stesso numero è presente un’intervista, ve la riportiamo in parte.

In your story, Marjorie Lemke, which appears in this week’s issue, we meet a woman who considers herself a loser. Where did things go wrong for Marjorie Lemke?

I suspect it was a slow, sad, ordinary decline. Marjorie was a sweet girl whose early crime was passivity. Which of course is not a crime. And being poor played a role, and so did a culture that teaches boys, in all sorts of ways, to take what they want from girls, and teaches girls to forfeit. As far as I see it, you act a certain way, keep acting this way, and suddenly this is how you act. At some point someone calls her a loser; later, once the evidence gathers, she begins to see herself this way. How do you break from that self-conception? (I don’t see her as a loser, for the record. She is raising a baby alone; she works hard; she is making an attempt to stay clean. She may not be a “winner,” but she’s fighting a battle).

Marjorie gets involved with a man she meets while cleaning his motel room. Gabe and his wife, Violet, have been living in motel rooms for a while—do you get the sense that Marjorie is the first woman he’s seduced? And what does he see in her?

Who seduces whom? It happens off the page. I don’t sense that either he or Marjorie have done this before. The circumstances are so peculiar. I can imagine a reader thinking Gabe behaves like a serial seducer. After all, he invites a woman to clean the room while he reads a newspaper in bed, shirtless. But I think this has much more to do with loneliness than lecherousness. And consider his body. This is a guy who recently weighed three hundred pounds. He has a new self. How strange—how unreal this might make a person feel. If Gabe feels like his new body isn’t quite his own yet, perhaps sharing it with another isn’t really a betrayal of his wife? As for what he sees in Marjorie, I believe he sees the good things that she cannot recognize in herself: her hard work, her bravery and ingenuity in raising a child alone (and pushing the baby on a cart!). I think, too, that their bond may be born in part from both being the “lesser” partner in a relationship, being the one who got the raw deal.

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