Jean Thompson, “Applause, Applause”

imagesTwo college buddies reunite after a decade.

(from Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, edited by David Sedaris)

Ten years of letters, of extravagant alcoholic phone calls. The continual measure they took of each other. Their vanished precocity, reluctantly cast aside at age twenty-five or so. Ten years which established Ted’s increasingly self-conscious, increasingly offhand reports of publications, recognitions.

I really liked this story, written early in Thompson’s career and published in her first collection of short stories, The Gasoline Warsas well as this anthology edited by David Sedaris. Sedaris was an early supporter of Thompson’s work. In an interview, she says, “…I kept hearing from friends all around the country–’I went to a David Sedaris appearance and he was reading from your book.’ He has been more than generous to me and to other writers, and that is a heartening thing to see.”

This story is about two men who had the same dream when they were young, and one of them continues to pursue it while the other one doesn’t. Some people don’t like stories about writers, but I do, especially when they’re done as well as this one (although I’m obviously tired of the aging professor who seduces/is seduced by the impressionable and beautiful twenty-two-year-old). I respect a writer who can speak so directly about what we do every day instead of turning her characters into painters or photographers, when she knows almost nothing about painting or photography. I’m not necessarily talking about Thomspon here, just speaking in general. The most successful writers I know don’t seem to be doing a whole lot else besides reading and writing and thinking about reading and writing. They aren’t also chefs and potters and musicians, etc., etc., etc.

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