Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday Story Hour: Boxing with David Schickler

It's Saturday Story Hour--even when it's a busy week.

Last week's story left at least one of you feeling melancholy, so this week I want to make up for that with a story that approaches romantic comedy(!).

Believe it or not, sometimes a writer publishes his or her debut story in The New Yorker--after which, of course, pretty much everything else is downhill. For example, the author of today's story, David Schickler, debuted "The Smoker" in TNY and (sadly) has never written anything nearly as good or successful. Fosco's writer friend NR was so enamored with "The Smoker" that he looked forward eagerly to the publication of Schickler's first collection (Kissing in Manhattan); however, after reading the collection, NR literally threw the book out the window--he was that disappointed. Fosco would never dispose of a book, but he agrees that the rest of Schickler's collection was not nearly as good as "The Smoker."

What makes "The Smoker" so good? Well, for one thing, it's a humorous and quirky take on the old teacher-student romance cliche. Charmingly, it plays that scenario without resorting to cheap sexual thrills, favoring instead awkwardness and sweet incomprehension. And there are some gems of dialogue:

"Is this real? I mean, are you . . . in love with me?" He couldn't believe what he'd asked.

"I'm ready to be," said Nicole. "And I mean this as a compliment, but I've got nothing better to do."
I must say, that's kind of a good line.

Now if still think the story sounds a bit odd and creepy, that's because I haven't sprung the story's surprising twist on you. I don't want to give things away, but this isn't really your typical teacher-student romance story (no "Don't Stand So Close to Me" here). I would suggest you give the story a chance: see if it doesn't charm you by the end...

You can read "The Smoker" here.

And if you must discover David Schickler's other work, please do so by following these links:

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Jill said...

Just back from a little road trip. Look forward to getting caught up on your musings.

Jill said...

I LOVED it! I got shivers at the ending. It reminds me of my life with The Main Man. He's 14 years older...he was my brother-in-law. I knew he was the One the first time I met him when I was 19. Thanks Fosco...