Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Children are Bored on Sunday

I podcast in my car, and it kind of makes up for the loss of subway reading time now that I'm in LA. I have a few faves, and two short story podcasts. This is kind of funny to me, since I don't really love reading short stories. But I really love hearing them read.

If you have an extra 36:44, then take a listen to Jean Stafford's story "Children are Bored on Sunday", which touched me deeply last night when I was listening to it. Hilton Als, the New Yorker theater critic, picked it to discuss on the New Yorker fiction podcast, a monthly series where a writer chooses a story from the magazine's archive and reads it, then discusses the story and the writer. There have been some great ones. I even like the title of this episode, "Invalid Souls", which can play on either pronunciation of invalid, which that word always does. The story was first published in 1948, and I'm surprised how deeply it hit me. You can also read it in the online archive if you subscribe, but it's wonderful listening.

The action is a woman looking at art while avoiding a man she sees, but it's really about her mental state, her drinking, her collapse, and her fragility. I guess since I love the Met, where it's set, and Stafford beautifully catches these moments and the action of her mind drifting from where it should be. Also an incredible picture of mid-century New York intellectuals and what it must have felt like in that demi-monde. There's a great description of never-ending cocktail parties which weren't work, but weren't for fun, either. There was great competition, and conversation about art and ideas, people creating themselves and judging others. It's fascinating. Something about the way she was thinking really got to me. It's a beautiful story. It makes me want to read more of her stuff.


Elizabeth said...

Sigh. Do I need to start listening to podcasts now, too? I've never read this story and want to hear it. You're killing me with your recommendations!

Criticlasm said...

Lol. You can take a few minutes and sit at your computer and listen maybe? It's a nice break...being told a story.

Elizabeth said...

I did listen to it and loved it -- just as you said. I admit to having a problem with listening, though -- while I have no trouble zoning out reading and can do it literally anywhere with any level of distraction, I just can't listen like that. So I'm going to find and read the story, too. Thanks, again, for the link!

Criticlasm said...

Sure--it's so funny - I think it's because I listen in my car. Driving is conducive to it, but I don't think anything else would be. And, to be honest, there are times when I don't have the attention span driving, but I try to as much as I can. Reading, still the best!