Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Haslett. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Haslett. Show all posts

03 December, 2014

Adam Haslett, “The Good Doctor”

This story is written in 3rd-person POV and tells of a psychiatrist who has taken a job in an underserved area with the agreement that a government program will pay for his medical school debt. He’s always wanted to be a good doctor who listens and gives his patients time to talk. He’s had to drive 2 ½ hours to a woman’s home because she hasn’t been seen in some time with her prescriptions just being routinely refilled over the phone, time and time again. Frank arrives and listens to the woman’s story and tries to convince her to come to the office once a month and he’ll drive to her place once a month. However, she is not interested and does not ever want to see him again. Her story, her resilience and Frank’s humanity will make you cry as well as worry about the other two children in the family. Will they survive childhood? What kind of adults will they be? Will they escape the small town troubles?

As far as I can tell, “The Good Doctor” was first published in Haslett’s collection, You Are Not a Stranger Here. This collection was a National Book Award Finalist as well as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. And, it’s his debut collection. So far, with the first two stories, I’m blown away.

Adam Haslett, “Notes to My Biographer”

The form and style of this story fits the theme. A manic paranoid 73-year old man tries to reconnect with his 29-year-old son.  At times when the narrator, the old man, is in a manic episode the writing style is rushed and quick and it feels manic. “…and then I call my lawyer, my engineer, my model builder, three advertising firms whose numbers I find in the yellow pages, the American Association of Retired Persons—that market will be key—an old college friend who I remember once told me he’d competed in the Tour de France, figuring he’ll know the bicycle industry angle, my bank manager to discuss financing, the patent office, the Cal Tech physics lab, the woman I took to dinner the week before I left Baltimore, and three liquor stores before I find one that will deliver a case of Dom Pérignon.” Wow. It’s as though the author got into the head of this narrator.

The real heartbreaking part of the story is that the son has the same mental condition but he takes his medication, which the father refuses. The son tells the dad that it is selfish of him not to take his meds.

The story is written in first-person POV from the 73-year-old. It’s in present tense which helps give it an immediacy and at the end the reader is with the old man on the elevator.

“Notes to My Biographer” is the first story in the collection, You Are Not a Stranger Here.