There are some stories you read as a reader and there are other stories you read as a writer with one eye fixed on the how each word makes the sentence, how each sentence stacks up into paragraphs of meaning and emotion. This is a story I read and reread to learn how to write character, to learn how to turn character into plot, to learn how to tell a story before the reader even notices they are in the middle of one. Morrison teaches you how to tell a story that pulls no punches, that doesn’t care if the reader likes the narrator or not, that leaves much for the reader to figure out for themselves while pertaining to state plainly what they mean. There is no better school than this.
Published in The New Yorker, 2015. Read online here. Later formed part of Morrison’s novel God Help the Child, Knopf/Chatto & Windus, 2015