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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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“Every interaction between adult siblings presents a chance to get more clarity about the past. Hopefully, we’re able to seize at least some of these chances.”
“I wrote much of the story listening to jazz, including the title song, for inspiration on how to shift without imposing too much of a structure.”
“I wanted to portray the pain of trying to reach someone who is inside their own, unreachable pain, and how this often puts untenable pressure on relationships.”
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“I like melancholy and characters with weighty histories. I fell in love with Daniel. But I fall in love with all my characters.”
“Inspiration came from the stupid pencil jar our family had when I was growing up.”