‘The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp, and Carr’ by Jesse Ball

I read this story ten years ago, pretty much to the month. I was bowled over by it and parts of it — the bit where Carr encounters the girl with the cygnet on a leash, for instance; or when the judge’s wife comes to visit — have remained lodged in my mind ever since. Although it all begins in relatively innocuous fashion — an ill-advised approach in a bar — as the title suggests, the story doesn’t hide its intention. On the contrary, it powerfully — terrifyingly — represents the ineluctability of fate. Once the pattern is set, the story continues without mercy along its rutted track. The writing, the phrasing, the wit, the imagination — all are of the highest order. Dreamy, in the way of a nightmare. 

In The Paris Review 183 (Winter 2007) and available online here, if you’re a subscriber