Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Stories of Julie Hayden

Have you ever read a story by Julie Hayden? Do you even know who Julie Hayden is? Neither did S. Kirk Walsh, writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

From the piece...

JULIE HAYDEN’S ONE AND ONLY book, The Lists of the Past, was released 36 years ago this summer by Viking Press. Ten of its stories were originally published in the pages of the New Yorker, where Hayden worked for 16 years before her death at age 42.

I discovered Hayden while driving with my husband from Los Angeles to our home in Austin, Texas. For the road trip, I had downloaded multiple podcasts, including several fiction programs from the New Yorker. Along a barren stretch of Highway 10 in southeast Arizona, we listened to Lorrie Moore read Hayden's story "Day-Old Baby Rats." The story follows a tormented woman as she wanders the streets and subways of Manhattan, through stores and other public spaces, and finally through the heavy doors of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In the darkness of a confessional, while sipping Scotch from a flask, she tries to ask a priest for help. A slightly older and more broken-down version of Sylvia Plath’s Esther Greenwood, Hayden’s nameless protagonist embodies the acute loneliness of living in Manhattan — how the distorted lens of irrational fears and past traumas can transform the city into a dangerous landscape, seemingly impossible to navigate.

By the time the story was over, my husband and I had exited the highway and parked outside a diner. Only a few cars were in the lot, which was on a hill overlooking distant mountains. It was an odd and wonderful setting in which to listen to a story that so fully took me back to New York City — where at times during my early twenties I had experienced similar loneliness and intoxication. Over burgers and fries, my husband and I talked about the emotional power and mastery of the story and how it reminded us of our lost, younger selves. Neither of us could believe that we had never heard of this extraordinary writer.

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