Monday, May 9, 2011

Star Food – Ethan Canin

Well, I suppose I should have expected that it would happen.

-Shit…I missed a story.

So here I am, plowing through 1986… coming across some really good stories, start to look up a little about the author and I’m getting pretty excited, because this is a great story and a great writer. I then read the short bio on the author in the back of The BASS and it mentions that the author had a story in the 1985 volume. Strange… I thought, I don’t remember the name, and I don’t remember looking him up several months ago when I would have written about him.

Shit…I missed one.

I skipped over a story in 1985. I’ll insert the story I missed as soon as I can find the time to red and think about it. I don’t suppose it’ll be the last time I miss a story.

One quick thing about Canin and Star Food.

I really enjoyed this story. It’s one that I am sure will kick around in my memory for a long time.


“It seemed you could never really know another person. I felt alone in the world, in the way that makes me aware of sound and temperature,…”

My son lies on his back, on our bed, furiously kicking his legs and I can feel his toes brushing across my chest as I lean over him with my ear pressed against his chest.

Between his sharp quick breaths I can make out the rapid beat of his heart and I swear that the swish I hear is the blood being pushed through that powerful little muscle.

He pauses for a moment, his feet pressed up against my chest, his breathing stopped, as I assign the thought to him, “Dad…what are you doing to me?”

The pause lasts about 2 seconds and the swift kicking and rapid breathing begins again and I support myself above him looking deep into his eyes…forcing him to look into my eyes.

I know the power I have to force him to return my stare will be over in a matter of months when he has the strength to flip onto his back and turn and twist away from me.

When he has the ability to crawl away from me, to walk away from me, to run away from me and finally to drive away from me.

M and I laugh at the swift almost constant kicking he does but we know that once he becomes vertical…

I look into my little sons eyes quite a bit. I know what I am doing. I am attempting to see into the future. I want to know what we will talk about in the future. Will we talk? Will he have questions? Will I have the answers to his questions?

When I read these stories in the BASS, stories of sons and fathers, stories of mothers and sons, stories of families…I can’t help but also think about how I would have received these stories two years ago when having a son wasn’t even on the table.

It’s stories like Star Food that really serve what this whole exercise is about for me.

Again…from Carver’s introduction:

I hope people will read these stories for pleasure and amusement, for solace, courage – for whatever reasons people turn to literature – and will find in them something that will not just show us how we live now (though a writer could do worse than set his sights on this goal), but something else as well: a sense of union maybe, an aesthetic feeling of correctness, nothing less, really, than beauty given form and made visible in the incomparable way only short stories can do. I hope readers will find themselves interested and maybe even moved from time to time by what they find herein. Because if short story writing, along with the reading of short stories, doesn’t have to do with any of these matters, then what is it we are all doing, what is it we are about, pray tell? And why are we gathered here?"

You see, here I find myself once again struggling to know it all…to know everything about my son…now and in the days that haven’t even arrived.

But Canin writes:

“It seemed you could never really know another person. I felt alone in the world, in the way that makes me aware of sound and temperature,…”

And I felt a bit of that as I pulled my ear away from my son’s chest. An act later analyzed by me as an attempt to learn and glimpse into his soul.

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