Poe, Poe, “Le Duc De L’Omelette” (1832)

 

The title is funny but it’s downhill from there: duke dies, devil to a card game, wins and gets out of hell. The surplus of French lines is aggravating even to someone who reads French. Poe’s version of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Broadway Journal, October 11, 1845

Isaac Bashevis Singer, “The Key” (1969)

Bessie Popkin isn’t the only one confused in the story. Isaac Singer is a bit confused to. He sets up his widow heroine in the opening paragraphs as a woman paranoid of dybbuks and evils all around her in descriptions that make her seem more like a woman in the creeping stages of dementia. She lives on Broadway, she despises New York, especially its colorful people. She seldom ventures past her blocks. One day returning from the market she breaks her key. She never gave a spare to the superintendent, thinking he steals. She wanders the streets, giving us a few of the city as it was around 1967, when Singer wrote the story (the picture above was by David Attie of Getty Images, taken in 1968):

She notices an accident, firefighters cleaning the street of the victim. The reader thinks she’s seeing herself, dead. As she wanders about, she thinks, passing by a church and huddling in its doorway, where she sleeps, unmolested, of making reckoning. She has an epiphany. The animals she had always despised, she now loves, embodied in a cat that purred by her. It’s night, but “the fear of death was gone, along with her fear of being homeless.” She returns home. The superintendent helps her get back in her house. She is amazed by his kindness. A neighbor had placed the milk and butter she’d left at the door in her own fridge. Again, Bessie is amazed by th kindness. She goes into her room, lies down, feels something strange rise from her feet to her breast and as if dreams of her husband telling her, “You don’t need no key here. Just enter—and mazel too.” Is she dead?

Th confusion I referred to has to do with that first page: the details Singer sets out don’t relate to anything else in the story, at least not those that imply she is forgetful or delusional.

Here’s how The New Yorker summarizes the story, which ran in the Dec. 6, 1969 issue: “Bessie Popkin, a widow for over 20 years, lives alone in her apartment near Broadway. She has become slatternly and suspicious, feeling tormented by Evil Powers. Returning from a shopping trip, she tries to open her door, but the key breaks in the lock. Leaving her groceries in the hall, she goes in search of a locksmith. Exhausted from wandering in the darkness, Bessie dozes off on a church step. Awaking late at night, she sees the moon for the first time in years and thinks of her husband Sam. In a renascence, she decides to start a new life. Reaching home in the morning, she finds that a neighbor has taken care of her groceries and that the superintendent does have a key to the apartment. She lies down on her bed, feeling a heaviness and vibrations in her body, and dreams that Sam comes. Together they walk through a corridor which leads to two mountains meeting, with sunrise or sunset between them. In the voice of the hotel owner who had led them to their bridal suite, she hears the words, “You don’t need no key here. Just enter–and mazel tov.””

The New Yorker, December 6, 1969

Henry James, “John Delavoy” (1898)

The narrator is a writer: it’s Henry James, sort of. John Delavoy is a famous writer who’s just died. Miss Delavoy’s his sister. Mr. Beston on publishes the Cynosure, a trendy literary magazine. The narrator wrote a piece about the late Delavoy that he wants placed in Beston’s magazine. He comes to know Miss Delavoy, and like her. But Beston doesn’t like the essay, it’s too literary, too revealing of the actual substance of Delavoy’s work. Beston calls it “indecent.” He is more interested in gossip, “personal” stuff, and in a portrait by Miss Delavoy of her brother, which she produces but then asks to have returned once she learns Beston is refusing to run the narrator’s piece, out of fear, ostensibly, of losing 5,000 subscribers, a figure that soon rises to 10,000. He is “the mighty editor.” Beston refuses to return the portrait or to run the essay. The portrait is published, the issue sells hugely. The narrator places his piece elsewhere, and marries Miss Delavoy.

Cosmopolitan, January-February 1898

Hemingway, “Up in Michigan” (1923, 1938)

Liz Coats is a maid at the house where Jim Gilmore lives. Jim Gilmore took over a blacksmith shop. “Liz liked Jim very much.” Her infatuation grows. She’s a simple girl, has never been in love before, or been touched. When he goes away hunting or fishing, she misses him, can;t sleep at night, imagines him. She places herself in such a way as to make sure he’s the last thing she sees before going to bed. One night he comes over to her and presses himself against her, touches her breasts, kisses her. They go for a walk. He rapes her. Not her idea of how it would go. She coves him up and returns to the house.

Three Stories and Ten Poems, 1923

Malamud, “Steady Customer”

Four waitresses in a restaurant are crying. Their 28-year-old colleague Eileen had just died during a gallbladder operation. None of them wants to take over her lucrative section. The owner, Mr. Mollendorf, recruits a new waitress, Rose, from the agency, and the four girls agree to give her the section—except for one table: that of the steady customer who’d been Eileen’s for two years. The two were’t yet going together, but the waitresses were under the impression that they were going to start. Ant least that’s what they tell Rose. One of the waitresses decides to keep that table. The customer comes in, orders his usual. Doesn’t ask about Eileen. The girls are furious. The witness decides to tell him outright. All he says is: “I—I see,” his voice “curiously uncontrolled. ‘I’m sorry.’” The girls are still more furious. “They’re all alike,” one of them says. They stare at him. Customers begin starring at him:

The girls don’t know if he left because he was overcome by the news or because he was upset at the way he’d become an object of their scorn. “I’m convinced he really and truly loved her,” one of them says, closing the story.

New Threshold, August 1943.

Cheever, “The Hartleys”

john cheever

Jesus. Mr. and Mrs. Hartley travel to a ski resort with their young daughter Anne, age unknown. Anne is closest to her father when the family travels to the mountains. She refuses to learn to ski on her own. “Mr. and Mrs. Hartley spoke oftener to Anne than to each other, as if they had come to a point in their marriage where there was nothing to say.” Cheever mirrors the bleakness of the marriage in the landscape, in premonitory ways: “Its only colors were the colors of spent fire, and this impressed itself upon one–as if the desolation were something more than winter, as if it were the work of a great conflagration.” There are two conflagration. The first, a chambermaid hears through the transom as she approaches the Hartleys’ room–while Anne is playing elsewhere–and she hears Mrs. Hartley bemoan these trips in search of lost love:

cheever excerpt, The Hartleys

The second is that cruel, out-of-nowhere way of Cheever’s to spring a catastrophe on the austere bucolic setting: Anne is mangled and killed by the ski lift’s motor after she gets caught in the rope. From 1948.

Hemingway, “On The Quai at Smyrna” (1930)

Vir Heroicus Sublimis

Like reading a Barnett Newman. It is mostly in what Hemingway doesn’t say, in the silences between glimpses of terror and cruelty: “The worst, he said, were the women with the dead babies. You couldn’t get the women to give up their dead babies.” They scream at midnight until the soldiers point searchlights at them. One woman dies and goes immediately stiff. They’re refugees of the Greek-Turkish war of 1922, seen by a seemingly dissociated narrator, either a British or American soldier in charge of managing the situation while Turks, a little too Paul Bowles-like summed- and smudged up in the person of one “Turk,” are portrayed as complicating the situation. But that narrator is either unnerving or maddening, or both. Or mad: “You remember the harbor. There were plenty of nice things floating around in it.” Who is he talking to? Why this reference to “plenty of nice things floating around” in the midst of horrors? What nice things ever float in a harbor? Ever? It’s throw-away details like that, that you know would never be throw-aways in Hemingway, that make you think he’s just throwing a line for effect rather than meaning/ Nothing wrong with that of course. Viz, Newman, his Vir Heroicus Sublimis (the “Heroic Sublime”), whom we just saw at MoMa. See my picture above. Maybe that’s a Turkish man wondering yet again why he’s being thrown under the big red bus and those “zips,” as Newman called those lines. I don’t know why the photo utility I just used dulled the reds as it did. Maybe Kazyo Shigara’s 1964 “Untitled” is more apt:

kazuo shiraga

Kazuo Shiraga’s Untitled,” 1964. (c FlaglerLive)

The two-page vignette was originally the introduction to In Our Time. He unfortunately renamed it, pretentiously, “On the Quai at Smyrna.”

Edith Wharton, “The Fullness of Life”

A seemingly hoaky premise turns into a surprising and really affecting story, all hinged on the creaking of the boots of the protagonist’s husband. A woman is dying in the first page and a half, actually dying, whether from illness or suicide is not quite clear: “she had swallowed her noxious last draught of medicine.” She then finds herself in the afterlife, speaking to the Spirit of Life. The story risks being very silly at this point. But this is Wharton, who is not capable of silliness. The Spirit explains it all to her: she is to find her soul mate now, since she didn’t have one while Aline. Her husband certainly wasn’t it. She is ecstatic. She meets him. She connects. Florence, art, literature. He’s the one. He then tells her to come along so they can live in their dream home for eternity. Then it strikes her: it can’t be home, without the creaking of those boots. Can’t be home without husband. She was his soul mate, even if he wasn’t hers. Her loyalty is to him. She can’t bear to know that when his turn comes, he’d arrive and not find her there. This delicious, surprising passage:

Henry James, “The Story of a Year” (1865)

henry james the story of a year

Lizzie Crowe is often described as “shallow.” But it is Henry James’s story that better fits the description. Lizzie and Jack Ford promises themselves to each other just before Jack goes off to fight in the Civil War. Lizzie is the ward of Jack’s mother, the widowed and rigid, jealous Mrs. Ford who considers Lizzie “shallow” and no good for her son. The engagement is “an abasement incurred by John,” though again the way Lizzie is portrayed is more of an abasement projected by Henry James:

Mrs Ford sends Lizzie off to another town for a while, where Lizzie meets Bruce, an older man who immediately sets chase for her, and continues to do so even as Jack is dying nearby. Lizzie hears Jack is dying. She’s distraught. “Like most weak persons, she was glad to step out of the current of life, now that it had begun to quicken into action.” She is referred to as “this little girl.” It’s reminiscent of Updike referring to Janice as a “mutt” and “stupid.” Of Lizzie, James writes: “I do not mean to say that her sorrow was very poignant, although she fancied it was.” Such debasing of the character, amplified by James unnecessarily and haughtily plugging himself inw ith the first person. Imperious. And: “Her intellect was unequal to th stern logic of human events.” I’m not sure what James intends with this story, why he sets Lizzie up to be such a failure. It’s cruel and pointless, fictional torture. Worse: “Let us hope that her childish spirit was being tempered to some useful purpose.” She promises herself to Bruce. Jack recovers, is brought home. Bruce is persistent, sidles up to Lizzie again and again. Lizzie goes to Jack’s bedside, promises herself to him, he tells her he’s dying, and to marry Bruce. He does so with a brief, stupid soliloquy:

She goes on a long walk, returns, rejects Bruce, who’s of course at the gate–dying and mourning be damned–but he continues the chase. End of story. The goodreads analysis below is instructive.

From Goodreads’ Ronald Wendling:

The Misogyny Continues: “The Story of a Year” (1865) by Henry James

In this his second published novella Henry James, still in his early twenties, again reveals the misogyny in his first published but unsigned story, “A Tragedy of Error.” In this second, acknowledged story Lizzie Crowe is forced by the Civil War to forgo the presence not of a husband, as is Hortense Bernier in “A Tragedy of Error,” but of her fiancée. In both stories James appears to be imagining a woman he himself might marry and looking for reasons why he should not. We know from no less an authority than Leon Edel that James felt his masculinity threatened by the company of males who served, as he did not, in the Civil War. Here he imagines that he himself is the wounded veteran, Jack Ford, admired for his sense of duty but, from the perspective of most modern readers, clueless on the subject of women.

Jack, who has just proposed to Lizzie as James’s story begins, receives his military posting immediately after we overhear the couple talking over what their engagement means to each of them. Jack, along with Mrs. Ford (his widowed mother) and the narrator, all use the word “shallow” to characterize Lizzie whose own words and behavior bear out that description. A motherless young woman under Mrs. Ford’s guardianship, Lizzie has learned how simple, coy and merely “pretty” men wish women to be and decides to wear that obliging makeup. When Mrs. Ford calls Lizzie “shallow,” Jack not only agrees but says that is why he loves her. No mystery about her: he can see right through to those shallow depths.

I find only one place in the story where Lizzie indicates her awareness of how socially constructed that supposed shallowness is. She asks Jack directly if he thinks it horrid for a woman to act on reason and duty rather than sentiment and, not receiving a direct reply, says she plans to spend their unavoidable time away from each other educating herself practically on their future: “Women are such fools, Jack! I mean to learn to like boiled mutton and history and plain sewing and all that. Yet when a girl’s engaged, she’s not expected to do anything in particular.” To have acquired a man, in other words, is generally regarded as the pinnacle of female achievement.

In the one year they are apart, however, Lizzie lives up to her reputation for shallowness. While she does struggle a little toward fidelity to Jack, she can’t help romanticizing her forlorn situation, shying away from the ugly realities of Jack’s battlefield experience and her self-absorbed, if understandable need to find a man.

Lizzie remains, then, essentially fickle: nothing like the wife that the author of her character would need if he were to marry.

There was another obstacle to Jack’s (and Henry James’s) marrying a woman like Lizzie. Not only does Jack’s strong willed mother advise him against marrying her shallow guardian but connives with a friend to invite Lizzie to a visit where she not unexpectedly meets her second lover, the dashing but vaguely drawn character of Bruce. James’s own reluctance to marry might well have had at least part of its source, then, in the disapproval of his managerial mother.

But we might additionally look elsewhere in an effort to explain the unhappy fictional fate of Jack’s and Lizzie’s engagement to marry. Not only did James have real life doubts about his own masculinity and fears that his mother would reject his choice of a mate, but when he wrote this story he was still deciding whether to carry on his career as a writer. I think he considered that vocation as heroic in its way as Jack’s yearlong absence from Lizzie to serve in the military. But writing, especially as much of it as James was to do, would require absence from any wife far longer than the one described here in “The Story of a Year.”

Atlantic Monthly, March 1865

Hemingway, “Old Man at the Bridge” (1938)

 

A two-page sketch, a 76-years-old man escaping from the advancing fascists (during the Spanish Civil War), but too exhausted to go on. All pathos, all pity. He talks of his animals that he took care of until the last minute before he was forced to leave. He thinks the cat can take care of itself, but not so much the other animals–who, it turns out, are like him: his fate is sealed. The fascists’ planes were not up. “That and the fact that cats know how to look after themselves was all the good luck that old an would ever have.” The story is intended to be heartbreaking. Visualizing the old man, it is. It is a universal image: the civilian at the end of his rope, and luck. Those are his last moments, witnessed apparently by a news reporter. Unlike “Cat in the Rain,” the cats in this case are self-sufficient: it’s the old man who is reduced to the state of a kitten, shivering with uncertainty, no Hadley to save him.

Notably, the sketch was possibly intended as a news article: “It is based upon an Easter Sunday stopover at the Ebro River during his coverage of the Spanish Civil War in April 1938. Although employed by the North American Newspaper Association (NANA), Hemingway apparently decided to submit it to Ken Magazine as a short story instead of using it as a news article.”

Ken Magazine, May 19, 1938

Henry James, “A Tragedy of Errors” (1864)

James published this very first of his stories in February 1864 and never collected it in book form, finding it unworthy. Hortense has been living in a seaside resort with her lover Louis of two years when she receives a letter from her husband, Monsieur Bernier, announcing his return. She panics. She plots killing him with a boatman and former sailor with a shady past. But that morning Louis goes to meet Bernier at the boat, and Bernier takes another boat to go ashore. Louis, unaware of his lover’s plot, boards in the killer’s boat. And is killed. Almost funny, slapstick. Lots of preachy lines. A breezy, forgettable read.

Continental Monthly, February 1864, uncollected

Updike, “The Egg Race” (1977)

Ferguson reminisces wanderingly: his father, Shillington, here called Heysville, goes to a class reunion, reminisces more walking around town, and shows us why he’s such a coward who wants his cocoon preserved at all costs. Written as if he needed to fill a quota. Interesting premonition of his lung cancer.

The New Yorker, June 13, 1977

Isaac Bashevis Singer, “One Night in Brazil” (1977)

isaac singer one night in brazil

The protagonist, a writer, makes good on a promise to. Is it an eccentric but ultimately “atrocious” and “unreadable” writer, Paltiel, on a lay-over in Rio. Paltiel offends him. Paltiel’s wife Lena seduces him after years of being in love with him, and is also “a liar, an exhibitionist, and mad to boot.” But he begins to sleep with her only for the two to tumble out of the Hammock into a morass of gnats, mosquitoes and worse. She claims to have a dybbuk inside her but it turns out to be cancer. Paltiel drives him back to the ship, without saying a word, but then sends him slews of manuscripts and bad books of his, just as she sends him reams of letters. She dies of cancer, Paltiel is institutionalized. So goes the “frightening documents of what loneliness can do to such people and what they can do to themselves.”

The Forward, Nov 17-Dec. 1, 1977, The New Yorker, April 3, 1978

Edith Wharton, “Mrs. Mantsey’s View”

Mrs. Mantsey is an aging, stuck-in-her-ways woman whose only pleasure in life seems to be the views of the city from her boardinghouse in New York. Mrs. Black plans to build an extension of the building in front of Mantsey’s view, which would be blocked. Matsey panics, offers $1,000 to Black not to build. Black had offered her a room in the extension, which would have fixed the problem. But Mantsey doesn’t want to move. Black takes Mantsey for nuts. She’s right. Mantsey next sets fire to the construction’s wares after the first day. But she catches pneumonia and dies–happy, because she was able to look at her view one last time. (Compare to Carver’s “The Idea.” Why do we assume that looking out from a greater distance is OK, but looking from a nearer distance is voyeurism, at least when one is within one’s own home?)

The story reminded me of this recent item in The Times: “That Noise? The Rich Neighbors Digging a Basement Pool in Their $100 Million Brownstone: The extremely loud and incredibly expensive renovations that have shattered a formerly quiet residential block in Manhattan.” (See the picture above.)

 

Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” (1953)

The story rattles in the brain snake-like long after you’ve read it whatever you may think of it or of O’Connor. It rattles, it shakes you up, it demands attention, but don’t fall into the trap of its theological pretenses: that’s where it fails, as so much seems to fail in O’Connor.

Bailey wants to drive the family from Georgia to Florida for vacation. His mother, who has no name but “the grandmother,” pressures him to go to East Tennessee instead: Bailey’s two children, who are named–John Wesley and June Star–have never been to Tennessee, and The Misfits, a murderous band, is reported to have just escaped prison and was last seen in Florida: the grandmother doesn’t want to run into them. Also, she hides a cat that Bailey told her not to take. The cat will be instrumental in startling Bailey into a crash when the grandmother suddenly realizes that she’s misled her son into driving deep into an isolated dirt road in search of a supposed roadside attraction that’s not where the grandmother thought it was. She was so busy preaching, blabbering, complaining about the younger generation (” I remember the day you could go off and leave your screen door unlatched”), pretending to know it all, that she didn’t realize she’d screwed up her memory’s geography. The car crashes. The Misfits appear. The Misfits shoot everyone dead, leaving the grandmother last. She’s been pleading for her life, not that of her son or grandchildren or the unnamed wife. The Misfit has been in an oddly theological discussion with her the whole time:

“Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead,” The Misfit continued, “and He shouldn’t have done it. He shown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can-by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness,” he said and his voice had become almost a snarl.

He shoots her. The blood spatters his glasses. “She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

Avon Book of Modern Writing, 1953

Poe, “Metzengerstein” (1832)

Hungary. Two castles. Two rival families. Castle aflame, horse survives then takes first castle’s cruel baron into the flames. Not my cup of goth.

The Works of the Late Edgar Allen Poe (1850-56)

Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (1936)

EH 7018P Ernest Hemingway on safari, Africa. January, 1934. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Too pretentious for my taste. A man on safari with his boring rich wife dying of gangrene and regret, a subtextual alliteration throughout the longish story. Regret for all the stories he did not write, but not as much regret for all the lies he tells, better and better with age. He wishes he had better company than this wife. Stupidest line: “So this was how you died, in whispers that you did not hear.” A lot of stream of consciousness reminiscences that sound too much like an intellectual, name-dropping safari of geographic glamor.

August 1936, Esquire.

Image credit: unattributed – Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. Ernest Hemingway on safari, Africa. January, 1934. Wikimedia Commons.

Isaac Bashevis Singer, “Guests on a Winter Night” (1969)

isaac singer

Krochmalna Street in Warsaw, where Singer’s family lived.

I must be missing something because it’s more than one guest in this longuish four-part story about the various characters who stay on Krochmalna Street, colorful as they may be. I did not get the point of the conjunctions. The story culminates with the visit from the eccentric Aunt Itte Fruman, who overstays her welcome a touch, then goes to olive with another relative (her husband has swindled her of her house, but it’s not proper to show him up), then eventually dies. Characters, anecdotes, atmosphere, but that alone doesn’t do it for me.

Forward, February 1969, The New Yorker, January 24, 1970

Malamud, “The Place Is Different Now” (1943)

homeless bernard malamud the place is different now

(Karim Corban)

 Wally Mullins is a bum ever since he stole money from the subway service where he worked. He’s just out of the hospital after his brother the cop, Jimmy, gave him a beating and nearly gave him gangrene (what’s with gangrene? The snows of Kilimanjaro.) ordered him to get out of the neighborhood. He looks around for a place to sleep. Runs into his mother and sister. The sister is as cruel as jimmy but she can’t beat him up. The mother wants to give him money so he can get his shirt out of the laundry, and does. He uses the money first to buy some food, then hands to a tavern, and there, Jimmy is drinking a beer, and sees him. The chase. Another massive beating. Bloodied, Wally goes to the only friend he has, the barber Mr, Davido, who cares for him because during the Depression the barber had slapped his own son, when his son was a bum, and has never seen his son since. Mr. Davido shaves Wally, whose tears mix with the shaving cream. A very touching story of regret and cruelty. 

 

American Prefaces, Spring 1943

Updike, “The Fairy Godfathers” (1976)

Robert J. Manning, center, with Updike and biographer Justin Kaplan (Tom Britt)

Stupid story about man and woman, for some reason called Tod and Pumpkin (the psychiatrists’ names are worse) and their psychiatric sessions after each leaves a spouse. The whole story seems to be an excuse to write a passage about Pumpkin’s feet and how she likes her toes sucked, but otherwise a pointless exercise.

The New Yorker, November 8, 1976

Isaac Bashevis Singer, “A Friend of Kafka” (1968)

isaac singer a frien d of kafka

The former actor Jacoharaques Khon’s rambling story of his illusions of shadowing glamour, whether through his friendship with the unknown Kafka or his affair, a one night stand, with a countess running away from her murderous lover. Too rambling. Similar to Singer’s “Dr. Beeber.”

Forfward, June 1968, The New Yorker, November 23, 1968

Malamud, “Benefit Performance” (1943)

(William E. Sauro/The New York Times)

Father is a struggling actor, daughter is in mid-20s, in bed with an unspecified illness that seems to be her period, often quarrels with father. She receives a guest, Ephraim, a plumber, to father’s disdain. They all fight, the father questioning Ephraim’s conversational skills, Ephraim questioning the father’s ability to make a living for his family. Much fork-clanging on plates and door-slamming.

Threshold, 1943

Welty, ”Lily Daw and the Three Ladies”

Lily Daw is a bit of a slow girl who thinks she’s getting married to a man. The three ladies are convincing her to go to a group home for the mentally challenged. But on the train platform to their disbelief the man appears. They hurry to change plans and betrothed her off the train. Meant to be funny.

(SSP summary) (above, Eudora Welty,  Nov. 15, 1970. )

 

Hemingway, “The Capital of the World” (1936)

hemingway

Originally titled more directly, “The Horns of the Bull.” A waiter named Paco wants to know what it’s like to face a bull. A man indulges him by putting knives for horns at the foot of a chair and charging him. Paco is gored and dies. He had been full of illusions. “He had not had time in his life to lose any of them.” An early-gory Hemingway indulgence in the pseudo-romance of bullfighting, otherwise known as the torture and killing of animals for public enjoyment after the age of gladiatorial murder of human beings in big arenas made that less explicitly but no less enthusiastically accessible (our arenas now as ever are war theaters). There’s a hint of Hemingway’s pretension about both Madrid and bullfighting in his reworked title, in a story that starts with superbly deceptive humor and quickly moves into Paco pathos:

Updike, “From the Journal of a Leper” (1976)

A diary of Updike and his psoriasis. Too self-absorbed down to the scabs. His Treatment. His seeming cure. Dull.

The New Yorker, July 19, 1976