The New Yorker: 10 Sept 2018 “excellent short story”
- Author: Saīd Sayrafiezadeh
- Title: Audition
- Published: 10 September 2018 The New Yorker
- Trivia: Sayrafiezadeh was a finalist for PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize
- and he won a 2010 Whiting Writers’ Award for his memoir.
- List Challenges 2018
- Monthly planning
- #DealMeIn2018 Jay’s Bibliophilopolis
What is the hook?
- Well it has to be the first sentence:
- “The first time I smoked crack cocaine was the Spring
- … I worked construction for my father on his new subdivision Moonlight Heights.”
- But no, this is not going to be all about drugs,
- Sayarfiezadeh tells us in the second line what he wants to achieve.
- I quote him because I could not have said it better….in a nutshell.
- “…jotting down details about the poeple I observe so I can
- replicate the human condition on screen with nuance and veracity.”
SHORT STORY ANALYSIS
1.Explain the title. In what way is it suitable to the story?
Audition refers to the main characters desire to become a stage actor.
2. What is the predominant element in the story?
a. 90 % Inner dialogue: the speech of a the narrator to himself.
b. He hears it and the reader hears it, but other
c. characters have no idea what’s going on in his head
d. 10% dialogue
3. Who is the single main character about?
a. Nameless narrator
b. boss’s son forced to learn life the hard way
c…..working at Dad’s construction subdivision.
d.”…just another working man in wet overalls.”
4. What sort of conflict confronts the leading character or characters?
a.external – a self made-father vs son “dreaming of fame, art and exhault” as actor
b.internal – an outsider seeking friendship.
5. How is the conflict resolved?
a. External – a real job carrying 60 pound drywall across
b.“damp floors and up banisterless staircases”
c. is better than being a carbon copy actor with no talent.
d. Internal – befriending Duncan Dioguardi
e. same age…19 years older but looks 10 years older
f. from a down and out working class neighbourhood.
6. How does the author handle characterization ?
a. Description by narrator (unreliable?) about himself and others.
b. Narrator: American teenage voice with adult voice behind it
c. Language is conversational, simple
d. Not defined by famliy (tension between father and son)
e. 19 yr, out of shape, gone to best schools,
c. at 15yr attending weekend acting lessons.
c. Duncan Dioguardi: 19 yr but looks 10 years older
d. at 15 yr chipping bricks at a demolition site for a nickel a brick.
e. Father: in powder blue Mercedes,
f. just another big shot in 3 piece suit and safety vest.
7. Who tells the story? What point of view is used?
a.1st person narration captures my attention
b. narrator is an unnamed 19 year old spoiled smart-ass.
8. Where does the primary action take place?
a. Subdivision building site Moonlight Heights
b. working class neighborhood of weather beaten 2-story red brick homes
c. basement/bedroom ‘theater’
9. What is the time setting for the action?
a. Spring 1990’s
10. How does the story get started? What is the initial incident?
Narrator recounts is on-the-job training at his father’s building subdivision.
11. Briefly describe the rising action of the story.
a. Narrator describes the difference between himself and the labourers.
b. “ My problems were not their problems but I wish they were.”
c. Their problems were “immediate, distinct, resolvable.”
d. My problems were “long term, existential and impossible.”
12. What is the high point, or climax, of the story?
a. Epiphany – The author keeps the reader waiting
b. until the last paragraph…..builds tension!
c. ”I knew I was traversing some essential but unstated boundary,
d. but I traversed it anyway.”
13. Discuss the falling action or close of the story.
a. Narrator realizes he still has time
b. to make new life decisions
c. that have nothing to do with the theatre.
d. ” It was midnight. Midnight was still young”.
14. Does this story create any special mood?
a. There is a mood of pathos created in the story.
b. Experiences that stir up emotions of pity, sympathy, and sorrow.
c. For Duncan it was job that is going no where.
d. Stacked in the corner were some carpentry manuals for beginners.
e. ”I dabble with those sometimes,” he said ”
f. but they won’t give a guy like me a chance.”
g. This evokes feelings of sympathy in readers.
15. Did you identify with any of the characters?
a. Of course, you can identify with the narrator and Duncan
b. Who has never wanted to make a dream a reality
c….only to have their bubble burst?
16. Does this story contain any of the following elements?
a. Motif: – There are many subtle and obvious references
b. to the theater and acting roles.
c. Father vs Son: “we played roles that were generic superfical and true”.
d. Repetition, alliteration, contrasts, platitudes euphemisms
e…they are all there!
You have to pay your dues…
It takes as long as it takes…
It is mind over matter…
Whatever you set your mind to…
f. This makes the story a memorable experience of language.
g. Bravo, Saīd Zayarfiezadeh!
h. Irony: Duncan Dioguardi is bossy.
i. ”Put this here, put that there. He enjoys the power while the narrator
j. ”enjoys the cold comfort that I could burst his bubble by
k. telling him who my dad was.
l. But a good actor never breaks character.” (motif)
17. Can you find any examples of figurative language?
a. Images: Duncan:
b. He had a tattoo of a
c. ”…snake coiling around his bicep crawling up toward his neck
d. en route to devour his face…”
e. Images: nameless narrator
f. “…never get a tattoo…
g. a performer must always remain a blank slate.
h. So here I was playing
i. …the role of general laborer with flawless skin.”(motif)
18. Does the story have a thematic message?
a. After reading the story I had to think of the
b. lyrics of Eminem’s song “Nowhere Fast”.
c. This song (…it is really a poem) expresses the feeling
d. I got reading about two boys from different
e. points on the economic spectrum
f….yet they bond and come together
g. …because they are so alike.
“Wasted youth, always on the road
Never lookin’ back and we’re never gettin’ old
‘Cause the skies are black
But our heart’s made of gold.”
19. What was the sentence that impressed you the most?
a. Duncan: “He’d lived twice the life that I’d lived,
b. while having none of my advantages.
c. He was what my father had been before he hit it big.
d. But Duncan Dioguardi was most likely never going to hit it big.
c. His trajectory seemed already established.”
e. This reminds me of the fatalism that oozes from this story.
f. Events are predetermined and Duncan
g….is powerless to change them.
- Strong point: quite funny, and emotionally engaging
- Ending: an inevitable surprise
- satisfying but without neatly tied up conclusions.
- Depth: goes beyond the surface,
- goes beyond what characters are wearing.
- Strong point: The story felt like a bildungsroman
- …novel of maturation
- but compressed in a short story!
- Note: I listened to the fiction podcast on The New Yorker wesite
- then I re-read the magazine copy.
- The podcast was the best!
- I can hear the rhythm of language, the alliteration, the contrasts.
- “Who is the fool who agrees to move
- …thru space without saying a word?”
- After reading this story…I couldn’t go to sleep.
- I kept thinking and pondering this narrative.
- Two young men and
- “This was an outsized struggle in a midsized city.”
- That is impressive because not many novels
- affect me that way!
- The next morning I just sat at the laptop
- …and this review ‘wrote itself’.
- I may just concentrate only on short stories
- …for the coming weeks.
- Short stories are much harder to write
- because the author has to do so much with so few words.
- Every word packs a punch.
- Writing short stories is truly a skill!
- Bravo, Saīd Zayarfiezadeh!