A Good Fall by Ha Jin
In Short Stories on January 6, 2010 at 2:35 pm
These subtle, gentle characters are the people that other people don’t notice–almost invisible. They slip in and out of everyday life. Not plain, necessarily, just background people. Chinese immigrants in America. An opera composer’s life is dramatically affected by parakeet, an untrusting husband cannot come to terms with his wife’s past, the owner of a small press publishes a handful of unknown poets, a girlfriend who cannot mix her laundry with anyone else’s, grandchildren who change their names to avoid being called “chicken,” and their grandparents who despise the change. The details are so seamless, so fitting, that these almost don’t seem like stories–almost don’t seem like fiction. More than well-told-tales, these are much more like sitting in on the lives of the people who pass by each day. The dialogue, the smells of apricot, the churning fear of an affair, all fit together like well stacked bricks. You can’t help but stand back and admire the firm wall. Ha Jin points out the people who don’t stand out and suggests, delicately, that we open our eyes and see life–all the things that every person shares with others.