Reading Note:


“The Slows,” Gail Hareven’s story in this week’s New Yorker (translated from the Hebrew by Yaacov Jeffrey Green) is not the sort of thing that I have much to say about. Although perfectly well-executed, the story is a science-fiction parable, and therefore not about anybody you or I know. Take the narrator, for example. The narrator has had a very unusual childhood — no childhood at all, really. Thanks to a growth hormone that is now routinely administered to most human newborns, he reached adulthood in the space of a few weeks after birth. While interesting in a back-of-the-envelope way, Ms Hareven’s construct presumes that recognizable human beings — recognizable to us — could reach maturity without the prolonged post-partum gestation that stocks a growing mind with twelve years of passive experience. I don’t buy it for a minute.

The Slows, of course, are dissident human beings who have resisted the hormone. They’ve been increasingly marginalized, and now they are about to be eliminated altogether. No one will die, posssibly; but no one will retain the right to allow an infant to take its time growing up. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, we can’t of course say, but in the meantime we can discern parallels to the oppression/extinction of Native Americans (on both New World continents), and we can wonder if the author wants us to think about Palestinians.

In my book, to the extent that a story is “thought-provoking” — and “The Slows” is certainly that — it cannot be good adult fiction. Only last week, The New Yorker published a story, “Vast Hell,” of incomparably deeper political significance, but the significance is rich because it cannot be reduced to a political decision. In “Vast Hell,” townsmen discover some graves of “the disappeared,” victims of a very bad spell in Argentinian history. The story is about the townsmen, however, and not about the desaparecidos. Guillermo Martínez’s fiction does not teach the reader anything; rather, it kindles a host of synesthetic responses in the mind that recreate, to the extent that the reader is attentive and imaginative, the complexity of making a ghastly discovery that one had been dead set on not making.

“The Slows” is an excellent story for younger readers who are beginning to learn not to read literally: it will kindle outrage. I mean that in earnest and without snark of any kind. There is nothing concealed in my conviction that science fiction has no place in The New Yorker — or in any magazine that I read regularly.

One Response to “Reading Note:

  1. Matt says:

    Your elitism is gross. The allusion to the whole experience of both Jews and Palestinians is obvious. It is interestingly stylistically and the basic dialogue resembles something of a more metaphysically content McCarthy.