First-person story that occasionally addresses the reader. For me the theme is "And that's how I knew I was very alive and that living was the step before not living. I mean that living was the step before dust. And dust was some crazy kind of eternal." Existential realization by a young girl.
The story is divided into seven main sections which are then subdivided.
The narrator's father is mugged and throughout the sections various details emerge. The second section describes the city and compares it to their hometown, Baltimore. The father is an inventor with only one successful invention, a mask and filter of sorts that helps factory workers breathe.
Third section. The narrator's father is a sexist and harasses, "I had seen him touch their asses," the females to go out with him. The trio is quite a spectacle in the city, San Juan, Puerto Rico, riding around in a red sports car. The daughter knows that there is a problem with her father's mask filters because the rats chew on them in the landfill releasing the ultra-fine dust back into the air. Of course, her father doesn't want to hear it. He berates her and tells her she'll inherit his business.
In the fourth section, masks are being returned as damaged and the father blames it on the factory workers, "You're not sewing them tight."
Their lives in Baltimore are interspersed with their lives in San Juan, without the mother who has died. Dust is at home as well. "And dust rode on the streak of light...The air was always full of dust. And nothing could crush it." I think this goes with the theme meaning that life goes on and on even in the death, dust, of life.
The daughter's ideas about the father's mugging is detailed in a paragraph in the sixth section with sentences that read aloud sound like punches in the face. "I think..." is used twelve times to punching effect while also revealing what the daughter understands about her father and his relationships in his world. The story has a pounding rhythm, vulnerable sound, and tough, no nonsense voice.
"To Sit, Unmoving" was published in The Better of McSweeney's, volume two, issues 11-20, and first in issue 20. Steinberg has an undergraduate degree in painting and a graduate degree in English.
At Graywolf Press, Steinberg wrote about punctuation and life.
An interview at The Rumpus.
A video of Steinberg reading a short story, "Signified," 2007 in San Francisco.