Tragedy on a Large Stage

In Raymond Carver’s iconic “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love,” the two couples at the center of the narrative never leave the kitchen table, and yet, over the course of its fifteen pages, the story dangles these characters over a dark existential abyss. Alice Munro’s “Runaway” places its protagonist, a young woman trapped in a bad and potentially violent marriage, on a small, claustrophobia-inducing ranch. Amy Hempel’s “The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” takes place almost entirely in a character’s hospital room, where the protagonist fails to provide her best friend, who is dying of cancer, the abiding love and devotion she yearns for in her final days. Contemporary short fiction often grapples with the intimate tragedies that occur within the four walls of a bedroom, a hospital waiting room, or a kitchen. These stories illustrate the quiet sensibility of modern short fiction: one of intimacy, of those barely visible tremors that hint at the seismic subterranean shifts of human love and allegiance, of treachery and howling grief.

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Genevieve Thurtle lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. She received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts in July 2014. Her work has been published in Crazyhorse and The Chariton Review. She recently completed a short story collection entitled Aphasia and Days.

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