Maile Meloy is a recent discovery for me. Technically, I’ve learned a lot from the way she controls time, but also from the emotional boldness of the stories. Sometimes, when writing a story, I feel myself pulling away from the strong emotions, always wanting to be subtle. Meloy just whacks you shamelessly with feelings, which is very refreshing. This story is about a cowboy who accidentally goes into an evening class taught by a young lawyer who doesn’t want to be there because it’s a nine-hour drive from where she lives. Meloy has another one about a lawyer called ‘Tome’ – also amazing.
First published in The New Yorker, October 2002, and available to subscribers to read here. Collected in Both Ways is the Only Way I Want it, Riverhead, 2009/Canongate, 2010
In lockdown I started taking long walks while listening to the New Yorker’s Fiction Podcast, and the episode of Ann Patchett reading ‘The Proxy Marriage’ by Maile Meloy was one of my favourites. After listening to the story, I returned to look it up, and I have since read it again and again. What do I like about it so much? Well, there’s that theme of unrequited love (again). Plus the plot is so unusual and unlike anything I’ve read before – two teenagers, acting as proxies for couples who wanted to get married during the Iraq war. And I love that William got the ending he deserved. Most of all though, I just love how alive the two characters, William and Bridey, are; they come to life straight away and I can picture them so clearly. It’s such a lesson for short story writing really; how the tiniest details and gestures can say so much and paint a picture. I also love how Meloy so effortlessly moves through time, taking us through their teenage years to adulthood. Her tone and quality makes writing look so easy.
First published in the New Yorker, 2012