July 2, 2012: “Another Life” by Paul La Farge
While the Q&A with Paul La Farge provides some valuable insight into this story, that makes the story worth reading, I still don’t love it. While there are some nice touches—the influence of Rousseau, the purposeful shift in point of view, the possible metafictional ending—it still boils down to a guy with a midlife crisis who does a creepy thing and deserves what he gets, at least in the eyes of the narrator, and the metafictional author.
The story is about “the husband” (unnamed) who is uncomfortable in his eleven-year-old marriage and is, maybe, feeling unfulfilled in his career. He has bailed on a birthday party for his father-in-law and comes to a bar, where he is attracted to a pretty bartender. After they have sex and do cocaine in the restroom, the heart problem that he has denied he has appears to show itself, creating a somewhat uncertain ending. But the twist to the ending is that we already know the bartender is taking a fiction course in college and there is a suggestion that she has written the story we are reading. Which means, how much of the story is true? She’s been in control all along, so what do we really know about “the husband?” Only what she has told us, and she’s manipulating us to justify the choice she makes in the end.
Maybe. Still didn’t love it, but the metafictional twist redeems the story for me.