‘Your Duck Is My Duck’ by Deborah Eisenberg

I’m still more than a little surprised that every short story-reading human I meet doesn’t greet me by grabbing my shoulders and demanding that we talk right now about Deborah Eisenberg’s ‘Your Duck Is My Duck’. This is the sort of story whose omission from, well, anywhere at all ought to mean an early and well-earned retirement for the editors in question. I myself missed it when it appeared in Fence: thank heaven for them, for the O. Henry anthology, and for Lauren Groff in championing this story of the rich and poor, artists and patrons, painters and puppeteers.

As that list suggests: one of the greatest challenges in writing fiction with anything to say about right-the-hell-now is getting everybody in the same room. Your Duck not only manages this, but, unblinking, shows how little doing so might matter, how much deeper we’re in it than we imagine, how very late is the hour.

When our narrator, a struggling painter, tries to return some dresses given by her very rich hostess, we get this: “‘The dresses?’ she said. She smiled vaguely, and patted me, as though I had barked.”

There’s so much in this story—every twist and turn is a necessary point on the map of itself. Any account of it would just devolve into endless quotation until the whole story would be typed out below. I won’t do that to you—if you promise to seek the story out yourselves.

In Your Duck Is My Duck, Ecco, 2018, and available through Electric Literature here

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