One of my favorite short stories is on Selected Shorts this week: “Silverwater” by Amy Bloom (performed by the great Linda Lavin). I first read this story in the 1992 edition of Best American Short Stories (a banner year for short fiction—the book also includes “Emergency” by Denis Johnson, “The Pugilist at Rest” by Thom Jones, “Carried Away” by Alice Munro, and “A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain” by Robert Olen Butler). “Silverwater” is about a family trying to cope with their daughter Rose’s schizophrenia. Told from the point of view of Rose’s sister, Violet, the narration arcs across her illness, from the first manifestations to the tragic conclusion, without ever losing its sense of humor or humanity. Here are the opening lines:
“My sister’s voice was like mountain water in a silver pitcher; the clear, blue beauty of it cools you and lifts you up beyond your heat, beyond your body. After we went to see La Traviata, when she was fourteen and I was twelve, she elbowed me in the parking lot and said, “Check this out.” And she opened her mouth unnaturally wide and her voice came out, so crystalline and bright, that all the departing operagoers stood frozen by their cars, unable to take out their keys or open their doors until she had finished and then they cheered like hell.”
Listen in on your local public radio station, or download it for free on podcast. You’ll also get a wonderful piece: “Love” by Tibor Dery, read by Keir Dullea. I missed posting on last week’s program, which featured “The Fix” by Percival Everett (read by our own Isaiah Sheffer), about a man who can fix anything, from broken toys to broken hearts. This is a story you should not miss—but don’t worry—you can hear both shows right now by going here.