“Good-Looking” - A Short Story
By Souvankham Thammavongsa - from The New Yorker February 22, 2021
Today’s story is on the website of The New Yorker
Last week I read my first short story,”Edge of the World” by Souvankham Thammavongsa, author of the debut collection, How to Pronounce Knife, focusing on Laotian immigrants to the United States. I was delighted to see on the website of The New Yorker. “Good Looking” is a new story, not included in How to Pronounce Knife.
There are strong similarities between this story and “Edge of the World”. Both are told by a woman in her forties recalling her early childhood memories of her parents relationship. They are filtered through memory band knowledge and insight gained by the woman from her life experiences. As in “Edge of the World” it is not revealed until the close of the story that this is not a contemporaneous narrative by a young girl as few young girls would characterize their mother as using her large bosom to show case herself but it can be seen. Of course one has to wonder are the memories entirely accurate.
As the story opens the narrator tells us her father works as an instructor at a membership funded gym. Even though he is married he leaves off his ring to make women members think he might be available. She says he is considerd good looking. The management encourages flirtations with the mostly single women members so they will buy longer memberships. Her father, we do not know much of his background, loves reading though he has no one to talk about this with. One day a female professor asks him out for coffee. He enjoys talking literature with her. To her great surprise he brings his daughter on what she no doubt thought was a prelude to a romantic encounter.
My main purpose today is to record my reading and let interested people know a story by Souvankham Thammavongsa can be read online.
I will be reading more of the stories of Souvankham Thammavongsa this year.
“Souvankham Thammavongsa is the author of four acclaimed poetry books, and the short story collection HOW TO PRONOUNCE KNIFE, winner of the 2020 Scotiabank Giller prize, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and PEN/American Open Book Award, a New York Times Editors' Choice, a TIME 100 Must-Read Books of 2020, out now with McClelland & Stewart (Canada), Little, Brown (U.S.), and Bloomsbury (U.K.). Her stories have won an O. Henry Award and appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, Granta, and NOON. Thammavongsa is a judge for the 2021 Griffin Poetry Prize. She was born in the Lao refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand and was raised and educated in Toronto.” From the author’s website