On Frederic Tuten’s “Winter, 1965”
I just finished reading Frederic Tuten’s dazzling story “Winter, 1965” in the October 2014 issue of Bomb. It’s sublime; such humor and such sadness and such quick graceful pivots away from anything resembling self pity. It’s like Chaplin translated into prose, but without the suffering kohl-eyed gazes at the camera. Tuten is (deservedly) known as an experimentalist, but this story, like his jaw-dropping “The Ship at Anchor,” has a Chekhovian transparency. In New York City in 1965, a young writer, who works days as a case-worker for the Department of Welfare, is imminently waiting for his first story to appear in The Partisan Review. He’s told all his friends at the Lion’s Head about it, and it’s made him a celebrity among them. At last the issue arrives, and his story isn’t there. What follows is a terrible dream of longing and dejection. What writer wouldn’t recognize it? And of course that city is my city, or the one I saw glowing on the horizon (even Avenue D glowed!), when I was 12 and just starting to grow my hair long. That winter I went ice skating at the Colony rink in the Bronx and whipped around the disk of ice so quickly and tirelessly it made me sick. Later in my mother’s apartment, I threw up in the bathroom, and just as I flushed the toilet all the lights went out, all over the city.
This story turned them back on.