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A Conversation With PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2018 Author Lauren Friedlander
“I started thinking about immoral women, women who are not merely complicit counterparts to A Bad Man but active participants in cruelty.”
Every morning Andrew fetches her breakfast. This is just a recent thing. I’ve seen him reading in a book that it is vital to treat your woman kind. Something special at least every day, a little surprise to keep everyone on his or her toes. So for Deb especially, he treks down the mountain in the early hours, when dawn is on the brim, all violet, and he hits up the diner that is like a half mile east, maybe less, called Cassidy’s. Cassidy doesn’t work there anymore— she’s passed—but new customers always ask. I haven’t been let down to Cassidy’s in a bit. I remember they had nice red booths with glitter in the vinyl or something that made them sparkle.
I stay put in our tent with Deb. I stay put and Andrew goes “hunting.” I am fully aware that this is the way it’s been done between man and woman for eons now, and my mom used to say there’s no need to fix what hasn’t broke.
Deb prefers eggs, scrambled, and toast cut into triangles with butter pats and grape jelly on top. It takes Andrew a full hour at least to get all the way down the mountain and all the way east to Cassidy’s, so by the time he is back, the food’s gone cold. The first day of this new routine, Deb sticks her knuckle in the egg pile and gets pissy about it, flat out refuses it, so I vulture her leftovers, since I’m hungry but also dying for a non-jerky-like texture to work my jaws.
This has all been a fluuuke . . . beginner’s luuuck . . . !,
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“When you’re a kid you’re not sure if you don’t know something because you haven’t been taught it or because you’re not supposed to know.”
“I think, in pursuit of truth, science and religion still have to wrestle with the strictures of human knowledge, error, pride.”
“The narration style feels very conversational to me. I liked how second-person really tries to make the reader part of the story as well.”
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“The idea here is the casual way children can accept and parrot this kind of simple, black-and-white math about worth. So much so that in a pinch they are willing write off their own mother!”
“I have always been fascinated by the idea of women being monstrous and beastly because it ruptures the dominant Patriarchal ideal of the shy woman.”
“Some stories just flow out of you and you try to keep up as you write them. This story was not like that.”