Sunday, April 6, 2008
"Wait" by Roy Kesey
I'm in the middle of reading Best American Short Stories when I stumbled upon Roy Kesey's "Wait."
"Wait" was originally published in the Kenyon Review in Fall 2006, and also published in Kesey's short story collection All Over, had easily become one of my favorites on first read. The story is not for everyone. Kesey's style here is droll, the tone is very matter-of-fact with a grammatical structure that someone else pointed out to me as being almost entirely absent of adverbs and descriptions. Verbs work hard here. And the humor is over-the-top absurd. I'm not spoiling anything by telling you this, but if you don't like absurd comedy then this story won't resonate with you.
Me? I'm all over absurd.
It takes the reader on a wild ride through the waiting lobby of an airport where fog disrupts the flow of normal air traffic. Wackiness ensues much to my delight. If you've ever been stuck in an airport, you may be able to appreciate Kesey's wit. It's one of those stories when you ask yourself "what else could go wrong" might call for something absurdly unusual as well as disastrous.
What's also great about "Wait" is the deft way Kesey characterizes everyone. He relies on stereotypes (a technique common in humor writing), and the characters jump out of that on their own. By the end you'll have remembered the girl from Ghana, the boy from Mongolia, the Honduran woman and the Canadian accountant because they all play a part in Kesey's story world. No character is not important. No one is forgotten.
And by the time you're done with it, you'll appreciate how much something so literary can also be so entertaining and carry you away to another place.