Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'll Take Manhattan(s) and Short Stories and ... Coincidences?

There’s an old saying that you will always meet someone you know when walking along the Champs Elysées.  Perhaps that’s so, but one of the things I love about New York City is that it is Convergence Central. 

Almost twenty years ago I worked briefly for an eminent man at a firm where I was perma-temping.  He was an anomaly at the firm, almost of another time, his manner gentle and gentlemanly.  I respected and liked him. While I never doubted his genius, I didn’t understand what he wrote about — I’m a literature/history person, not a mathematics/science person, and he was an economist.  A friend of mine at that firm edited his writings, so she presumably did understand what he was talking about.

Fast forward to 2009-2010.  I was introduced to literary evenings at the Players Club when New River Dramatists presented special performances in which actors read the prose works — sometimes short stories, sometimes chapters of longer works — of writers who also wrote plays and/or poetry.  Several evenings featured stories written by Alethea Black, as I wrote in my blog back in January of 2010. Her stories are what all writers aspire to: Alethea writes the right words in the right order. She pulls us, her readers, into the lives of her characters; we weep with them, we laugh with them. Sometimes we are them. 

This year, Random House/Broadway Paperbacks is publishing a collection of Alethea Black’s stories in a volume titled: “I Knew You’d Be Lovely.”  I pre-ordered it from Amazon ages ago, but as it won’t be published until July 5th, my impatient friend Matthew picked up bound galleys at the Strand.  I’m not complaining – I’ve now had the pleasure of reading stories I’ve heard as well as some I haven’t.  This past Monday night at the Players Club, the anticipated publication was celebrated with three wonderful actors reading stories from the collection:  Lisa Bostnar read “Someday is Today” so intuitively that one might have thought she was reading from her own diary.  Next up, Patricia Randell read a funny and touching story called “Good in a Crisis,” with wit and poignancy.  Michael Cerveris read a particularly striking story titled “The Only Way Out Is Through.”  Although I’d read it and knew how it ended, his reading brought the story to vibrant life, and the final scene punched me in the chest.  Figuratively, of course.  It was a wonderful evening, and I encourage anyone who cares about the American short story to get a copy of “I Knew You’d Be Lovely” when it’s published on the 5th of July.

Oh, the convergence thing?  On Monday evening at the Players Club, as I sat talking with friends from my theatre life before the readings began, who should walk in but that very friend — from my corporate life — who had edited that brilliant man whom I had liked and respected all those years ago. I wondered how she came to be there, and she told me that Alethea Black is the daughter of that memorable man. Mathematics from the father, literature from the daughter. I just get a kick out of the disparate parts of my life suddenly overlapping, like a Venn diagram.  I love New York.
(C) Natalie Dee

~ Molly Matera, turning off the computer, but not the light.  The printed book calling to me is not backlit.

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