Undo me

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Dear Readers,

We’re delighted to present this week’s Recommended Reading, “Glissando” by Katie Bellas. Guest edited by novelist and Brooklyn College MFA director Joshua Henkin, it’s a quiet, foreboding story about one man’s personal and fiscal demise:

“After the holidays, I think. I’ll tell Leigh about the apartment after the holidays.

But I hold in my heart an iota of hope: that perhaps I won’t have to tell her after the holidays; that perhaps I won’t have to tell her at all. I remind myself of William’s promise — William, our managing partner, who listened as I told him of Leigh’s and my situation, as I asked him about a bonus, a bonus on top of the bonus I’d already received; who walked with me to his office window and circled his arm around my shoulders; who said, “I know, Graham. We’re all going through this,” and then, confidentially, “I’ll look into it.” It’s on this looking-into that I’ve pinned my hopes. Dedicated William — Billy the Kid, we call him — confirming the numbers, what the new year will bring, finding that when he looks hard enough there will be something extra for me and Leigh, and that, with that extra, we can have what we’ve always had — Christmas together, our two stockings hung from the mantle, Leigh’s cello in the corner, the tree aglow beside it.”

Editor’s Note — Joshua Henkin:

It is just one of the many notable things about “Glissando” that the writer, Katie Bellas, is in her mid-twenties. There’s none of that jitteriness and showiness so common among young writers. It’s as if Bellas has all the time in the world to peel back the layers of her characters, and this she does, with remarkable precision. “Glissando” is a story about a middle-aged financial titan on the precipice of professional and personal failure. It’s a story about a congenitally cautious man who behaves incredibly incautiously. It’s a story about a man whose life is falling apart, and Bellas dangles him from a noose, and us along with him.

… Here’s a writer with a pitch-perfect sense of the spoken word, as when the doorman, Ed, who is threatening to betray Graham, comes upstairs to help erect the family Christmas tree: “She’s sappy,” Ed says. “Undo me,” says Graham, who has gotten tied up in the tree, and in an extended scene that’s both brilliant and agonizing, Bellas ensares us in the tree as well, and we watch Graham’s marriage come slowly undone. And here’s Graham listening to his wife, Leigh, play the cello: “The music seems to cascade out, beyond the radius of our two bodies, seems to spill onto the backgammon table half-played to my right, onto the Cogswell chair, onto the bookshelves housing the novels and the leather-bound encyclopedias a partner gave us countless Christamases ago.”

You haven’t heard of Katie Bellas, but you will soon: trust me. It’s a great pleasure to introduce her work to you.

About Recommended Reading:

Great authors inspire us. But what about the stories that inspire them? Recommended Reading, a magazine by Electric Literature, publishes one story a week, each chosen by today’s best authors or editors.

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— Elissa Goldstein was born and raised in Melbourne. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College and is the Online Editor of Electric Literature. You can find her here.

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