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Family histories

The summer fiction issue of the New Yorker serves up six short "family histories," five of which are online. (The sixth, "The Death of My Father," is by Steve Martin; no doubt that has something to do with its not being included.) The sharpest piece — and the one least succumbing to a history's penchant for open-endedness — is Mark Leyner's "Pinochle" (and you can link to the other four from its web page):

Rose has just dumped an unspeakable amount of wasabi into her little ceramic dish of soy sauce. In a robin's-egg-blue cashmere cardigan, a yellow scarf knotted jauntily at her neck, her white hair a wispy meringue — her elegance not vitiated in the least by the slight kyphotic curvature of her spine — she stirs up the wasabi (now brackish and clotted and looking like something brewed in gurgling vats during the Gulf War) and, trembling, precariously dips an enormous piece of yellowtail into it. At her age, the esophageal lining is like tissue paper. That caustic shit could eat through it like hydrochloric acid. A woman this age, this frail, could die from that, right? Someone should stop her.

The others are good, too.

June 21, 2002 4:21 PM

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