Slow-Cooked Sentences

Can we read at the table tonight?

Rachael Conlin Levy

We were down one at dinner time, which translated into take-and-bake pizza and books, followed by valentines and chocolate chip cookies. It was a great night.

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Midnight blue valentines

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At the table:

“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”
“The Story of Ferdinand”
“The Secret of the Unicorn”
“The Overlord Protocol (H.I.V.E.)”
“Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage”

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Have you read Alice Munro, the short story writer from Canada? Her writing is not lyrical or dreamy, but strong, sharp and clear. Yet there is nothing straight forward about these meaty stories, that cover swaths of time and depths of emotion in just 30 to 50 pages. I’m entirely under her spell.

An excerpt from the short story “Floating Bridge” found in “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage.”

“It’s too bad the moon isn’t up yet,” Ricky said. “It’s really nice here when the moon is up.”

“It’s nice now, too.”

He slipped his arms around her as if there was no question at all about what he was doing and he could take all the time he wanted to do it. He kissed her mouth. It seemed to her that this was the first time ever that she had participated in a kiss that was an event in itself. The whole story, all by itself. A tender prologue, an efficient pressure, a wholehearted probing and receiving, a linger thanks, and a drawing away satisfied.

“Oh,” he said. “Oh.”

He turned her around, and they walked back the way they had come.

“So was that the first you ever been on a floating bridge?”

She said yes it was.

“And now that’s what you’re going to get to drive over.”

He took her hand and swung it as if he would like to toss it.

“And that’s the first time ever I kissed a married women.”

“You’ll probably kiss a lot more of them,” she said. “Before you’re done.”

He sighed. “Yeah,” he said. Amazed and sobered by the thought of what lay ahead of him. “Yeah, I probably will.”

Lauren Groff reads Alice Munro’s “Axis,” and discusses it with The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman.

The Paris Review (The Art of Fiction, No. 137) interviews Alice Munro.

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7 responses to “Can we read at the table tonight?”

  1. kyndale says:

    OMG, Jonathan found his Tin Tin books at his mom’s house. One morning the boys begged me to read “The Secret of the Unicorn” all the way through. I have to admit though, I’m not a big fan of Tin Tin but the boys sure are!!

  2. I’m intrigued. Who are these kissing characters… I want to read the rest of the story.

  3. Karen says:

    Rachael, sounds a lovely peaceful evening. I wish we could do one of those at our house instead of having duelling televisions! I’m an Alice Munro fan too.

  4. Andrea says:

    What a fun idea! My kids would flip if I did this since I’m always harping, “no books at the table!” Alice Munro is on my to-read list. Now I’m extra-intrigued, and I know which book to pick first.

  5. Rachael says:

    Andrea, we have the same rule, which is broken whenever the dinner circle is incomplete.

  6. Rachael says:

    Karen, our evenings are rarely like this. I guess that’s why I picked up the camera to document it.

  7. Rachael says:

    Kyndale, I’m not a Tin Tin fan, either, which means when the dinner conversation recently was dominated by a comparison of the original work versus the movie adaptation, I sat silently thinking my own thoughts without interruption!

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