‘The Polish Rider’ by Ben Lerner

This is another ekphrastic New Yorker story. Here a painter forgets one of her canvases in an Uber the night before her exhibition’s opening night. We begin in third person but – spoiler – a first person narrator appears part-way through. The story is always shifting like that. On one hand it’s essayistic – our narrator is writing an essay for the art exhibition (could it get any more Lerner?) – but the plot that unfolds is closer to a police procedural, with digressions about Uber, 80s television and the fall of the Soviet Union thrown in for good measure. Lerner writes interesting essays about art, too, so there’s fun tensions at play here, especially between visual and written art forms – on one level Lerner holds up visual art as superior to literature, but he does so while being able to capture paintings brilliantly within language, showing literature’s power. That all sounds very stuffy, so I’d also say that ‘The Polish Rider’ is very funny, too. If you like writing about painting, I also recommend Ayşegül Savaş’ stories, many of which are available free online.

First published in The New Yorker, May 2016. Subscribers can read online here

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