This is a magnificent coming-together of all the expressions of ‘normal’ Americanness with the alien uniformity of a mass wedding of Unificationists. Rodge and Maureen attend the wedding of their daughter, Karen, and the thirteen thousand others, all getting married in the same ceremony in the New York Yankees baseball stadium.
It is weird to see but then, as the story goes on, we see it’s no weirder than any other attempt to live in the deafening hush of modern times, for example, from near the end (which is probably not a spoiler for a Don DeLillo story):
People sit at desks and stare at office walls. They smell their shirts and drop them in the hamper. People bind themselves into numbered seats and fly across time zones and high cirrus and deep night, knowing there is something they’ve forgotten to do.
Which is probably about where this began, with Ben Pester.
First published in Granta, 34, Autumn 1990, and reprinted in Granta 147, Spring 2019 – and available for subscribers to read online here; also incorporated in Mao II, Scribner/Cape, 1991
First published in the mid-1980s when fear of nuclear holocaust was at the forefront of public consciousness, this story feels very relevant now, even though ironically, in the story itself, nuclear weapons have been banned, making war more prevalent: “The banning of nuclear weapons has made the world safe for war.” The story is narrated by the commander of a two-man spacecraft orbiting the earth, gathering intelligence during the course of World War III. Much of it bears witness to what his rookie partner Vollmer experiences for the first time—human moments—and what he sees as he looks upon the earth from space. Through virtuosic language we too are able to envision afresh the beauty of the planet we inhabit and, in doing so, acutely sense the fleeting nature of our existence upon it. The final three paragraphs of this story are sublime, ending on a simply gorgeous refrain.
First published in Esquire, July 1983 and Granta, March 1984, where you can read it online. Collected in The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories, Picador 2011
In my copy of this, a story about a murder accidentally videotaped by a child, which has become famous beyond the names of any of the people concerned, which entirely prefigures every debate about real-life stuff being on the internet, at the top of it I’ve written, though I have no memory of doing it: “To me this is conceptual art at its finest & anyone who disagrees can fuck off.”
Whatcha gonna do emoji. It’s Don. Believe it. Shrugs.
First published in Harper’s, December 1994, and eventually incorporated into Underworld, Scribner/Picador, 1997. Available online here