‘Fast Lanes’ by Jayne Anne Phillips

A friend gave me this collection a while ago and it has been a pleasure to re-read this story, from one of the so called, ‘Dirty Realists’. But this story has real poetry in its musicality and imagery – ‘furled the white sheet out so it settled over me like the rectangular flag of some pure and empty country.’ We follow the journey of the narrator and Thurman through America towards the narrator’s home – an archetypal narrative shape. Along the way very little appears to happen except beautifully moderated dialogue, the geographical and physical descriptions, and the awareness dawning on the narrator of living too fast. There’s physical and psychological movement, shape, but not one which is rigid, and a welcome latent humour: ‘Nothing mechanical is easy,’ and ‘Don’t watch the dog, watch the road.’ 

First published in Granta 19: More Dirt, 1986, and available to subscribers to read online here. Collected in Fast Lanes, Faber,1987

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