Pop fiction

“He hovered over us as we poured ketchup saying: good enough good enough good enough. Birthday parties consisted of cupcakes, no ice cream. The first time I brought a date over she said: what’s with your dad and that pole? and I sat there blinking.”

–George Saunders, “Sticks” (one of my favorite short-short stories about a dad)

“I don’t like to be clapped at,” the waiter said.

“I should have brought my whistle,” my father said. “I have a whistle that is audible only to the ears of old waiters.”

–John Cheever, “Reunion” (my other favorite short-short about a dad)

Listen to Richard Ford read and discuss this story  on The New Yorker‘s fiction podcast with editor Deborah Treisman. (Cheever inspired Ford to write his own “Reunion” story, set in Grand Central Station, here. And I love Nathan Englander’s quiet, melancholy riff on the father story, also called “Reunion,”  here.)

Happy Father’s Day.

Taking off

Headed upstate to the Adirondacks tomorrow for a monthlong writers’ residency, in a place that is not only remote but designed to stay that way. (By policy, where I’m going, cellphones can’t.)

Here’s my favorite writer, on the power of travel and leaving behind your daily routine:

…I was happy because of the shedding. I loved taking off. In my own house, I seemed to be often looking for a place to hide–sometimes from the children but more often from the jobs to be done and the phone ringing and the sociability of the neighborhood. I wanted to hide so that I could get busy at my real work, which was a sort of wooing of distant parts of myself. I lived in a state of siege, always losing just what I wanted to hold on to. But on trips there was no difficulty. I could be talking to Andrew, talking to the children and looking at whatever they wanted me to look at–a pig on a sign, a pony in a field, a Volkswagen on a revolving stand–and pouring lemonade into plastic cups, and all the time those bits and pieces would be flying together inside me. The essential composition would be achieved. It was being a watcher that did it. A watcher, not a keeper.

–Alice Munro, “Miles City, Montana”