Rarely do I bump into a short story in a mainstream publication that knocks my socks off. The last time that happened was about twelve years ago when I read Anthony Doerr’s “The Hunter’s Wife” in The Atlantic (that was before they stupidly discontinued stories in each of their editions).
That said, “Nirvana,” by Adam Johnson, is in Esquire this month. Johnson’s novel, The Orphan Master’s Son won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. He is clearly an author who deserves every good reader’s attention.
It’s a very tender piece, but it’s so full of who we are at the moment: ghost musician gods, a wise President still dispensing his thoughts to the world although he’s dead, a cute, quixotic drone; tangles of hair; a spider moment that is perfect; app coding; Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft — only just enough; the future; the past; encryption busting; an Indian boss with flare; and love — tender, desperate, sweet, awesome love (and a bit of sex).
“Yes, hearing the President whisper is creepy because he’s been dead now, what—three months? But even creepier is what happens when I close my eyes: I keep visualizing my wife killing herself. More like the ways she might try to kill herself, since she’s paralyzed from the shoulders down.”
What amazes me about this story is that it can, and should, be read by everyone. It is serious, intelligent fiction, but it’s also fun, interesting, humorous, and timely.
Most of you know you should read more short stories, but just don’t manage to find the time. This is something to spend the time on. I’m a slow reader. It’s hard for me to find the time, too, but I’m so glad I read “Nirvana.” It’s everything a modern short story should be and then some. Check it out. Click below (if you really can’t do the reading yourself, they’ve magically added an audio link with Mr. Johnson reading the piece himself).