Breaking the Fall in Alice McDermott’s Someone

SomeoneAt the beginning of Alice McDermott’s latest novel, Someone, an unattractive but good-natured girl divulges her deepest desire. One day, coming home on the subway, she fell against a man—someone who managed to catch her—an event that was memorable because he was kind in the way that he did it. It’s clear that in that short moment she comes to love him, as we are fully capable of doing with strangers—even those who will always remain strangers.

She does not see the man again, but that does not stop her from looking. Laughing at her own foolishness, she says that she finds herself watching for him—subway ride after ride—in hopes of another such encounter. If it ever happened again, this time she would fall against him on purpose, to be caught by design. Because the best thing she has known in life so far has been the very fact that she was caught, and that someone was kind to her in the act of doing so.

This character, richly drawn, makes her appearance early in the novel, and like the man she hopes to encounter but never will, evanesces from the story within a few short pages. But the impression that she makes upon the narrator, Mary—a child when she first hears the story—lasts throughout the balance of the work. The rest of Mary’s life is marked by the relation of this yearning—that there be someone there when she, and those she loves, invariably, ineluctably, inescapably, fall.

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Letting It All Hang Out

I was zoning out at a red light when a shiny object—or, shall I say, two shiny objects—caught my eye. Dangling from the back of a pickup truck a pair of large metal testicles sparkled in the subzero sun.

I shot a picture before the light turned green and posted it to Facebook when I got home: “Please, Lord,” I wrote, “don’t let my daughter grow up to date a guy with testes on his truck.”

The responses came fast and furiously:

“Maybe he felt a need to buy a set since he didn’t have his own.”

“This kind of truck decor provides a public service.  Everyone knows if you see balls at the back, there’s a dick up front.”

“Someone envisioned that product—someone designed it, someone sold it, someone purchased and installed it. Isn’t this world amazing?”

What a world, indeed. Something drove this man to drop the scrotum in his cart or press “confirm” on an online order. Whether predmediated over months or cinched in a moment of inspiration, there was a moment of decision, followed, even more fantastically, by an installation process. Tools were deployed. Hands were busied. Nuts were given the final turn.

Did the man stand back, hands on his hips, and proclaim, “Yes! I can finally publicly acknowledge my douchebaggery on every street in Lake County?”

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