Short Story Reverence: Nancy Reisman’s “Illumination”
Teaching short stories for the university setting is one of my favorite aspects of my profession, and in preparation for this spring, I happened upon Nancy Reisman’s “Illumination.” Set in Buffalo, NY, 1933, what struck me about this piece is how the main character, Jo, is trapped by her body; trapped in a way that circuitously wraps itself into her actions and the way in which she sees her life through metaphor. Reisman has a fantastic sense for creating tension with intimacy and distance; the writing, too, so closely knit, is difficult to cut even a piece to examine without feeling uncomfortable. Her first paragraph:
Lucia Mazzano is a loaf of bread. Black hair pinned into a tight rosette, black lashes, olive neck, olive fingers, tapered, small, her dress a long flute, yellow of forsythia, yellow of butter.
“Illumination” was first published in Tin House, and can be found in The Best American Short Stories (2001), edited by Barbara Kingsolver.
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