It is no wonder that lesbians like women.
Issue No. 115
It’s hard to write about “The Moon In Its Flight” because it means too much to me. I have read it more often than any other story and have taught it every year for twenty years.
The first time I came across it was in a library in New Orleans. I was killing time in the air-conditioned stacks before I went to my waitressing job that night. I worked in a Turkish restaurant where I was required to dress up like a genie and read fortunes out of coffee grounds. I was twenty. Twenty-one maybe. It doesn’t matter really. Impossibly young, let’s say.
When I finished it, I just sat there, thinking, Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. “The Moon in Its Flight” is a funny story and because of this I’d been skating across the top of it, but when I got to a certain point it was like falling through the ice into freezing water. I felt like I’d been given a glimpse of what it would be like to be twenty years older once life had hammered the hell out of me.
I had never read a story that contained so much emotion in so little space. It swings from the most stunningly cynical moments to the most unnervingly tender, often within the space of one paragraph. And like all geniuses, Sorrentino makes it look easy. I will never write something as good as this story, but I like rereading it, seeing again how high he set the bar. Believe me when I say I wanted to kiss his shoe.
I’m tempted to quote line after line from the story here, but I don’t need to because you can just read it for yourself. If you like it, you should go seek out the rest of his work.
If you don’t like it, wait twenty years and read it again.
Author of Dept. of Speculation
Support Recommended Reading
by Gilbert Sorrentino
Recommended by Jenny Offill
This was in 1948. A group of young people sitting on the darkened porch of a New Jersey summer cottage in a lake resort community. The host some Bernie wearing an Upsala College sweatshirt. The late June night so soft one can, in retrospect, forgive America for everything. There were perhaps eight or nine people there, two of them the people that this story sketches.
Bernie was talking about Sonny Stitt’s alto on “That’s Earl, Brother.” As good as Bird, he said. Arnie said, bullshit: he was a very hip young man from Washington Heights, wore mirrored sunglasses. A bop drummer in his senior year at the High School of Performing Arts. Our young man, nineteen at this time, listened only to Rebecca, a girl of fifteen, remarkable in her New Look clothes. A long full skirt, black, snug tailored shirt of blue and white stripes with a high white collar and black velvet string tie, black kid Capezios. It is no wonder that lesbians like women.
At some point during the evening he walked Rebecca home. She lived on Lake Shore Drive, a wide road that skirted the beach and ran parallel to the small river that flowed into Lake Minnehaha. Lake Ramapo? Lake Tomahawk. Lake O-shi-wa-noh? Lake Sunburst. Leaning against her father’s powder-blue Buick convertible, lost, in the indigo night, the creamy stars, sound of crickets, they kissed. They fell in love.
One of the songs that summer was “For Heaven’s Sake.” Another, “It’s Magic.” Who remembers the clarity of Claude Thornhill and Sarah Vaughan, their exquisite irrelevance? They are gone where the useless chrome doughnuts on the Buick’s hood have gone. That Valhalla of Amos ’n’ Andy and guinea fruit peddlers with golden earrings. “Pleasa No Squeeza Da Banana.” In 1948, the whole world seemed beautiful to young people of a certain milieu, or let me say, possible. Yes, it seemed a possible world. This idea persisted until 1950, at which time it died, along with many of the young people who had held it. In Korea, the Chinese played “Scrapple from the Apple” over loudspeakers pointed at the American lines. That savage and virile alto blue-clear on the subzero night. This is, of course, old news.