We look at the map. When we arrive in France from King’s Cross the fields are striated with barbed wire and it is raining. At the station in Lille we contented ourselves with two mediocre sandwiches from a stand and a visit through the back to Notre-Dame de la Trielle. We had our bags, so took turns, circling around to the great doors of the church and admiring the stained glass and the general feeling of use and mishap. Newspapers left in the stalls, where someone had come in to read or to get out of the rain. Across from the church, a woman leaning out of the window smoking, the smoke curling above a window box filled with fuchsia geraniums. I thought: I will never see her again. Then back to the station, where there was a woman under a peeling beech tree stripped to the waist, feeding her baby. Then back to sit in the waiting room on a row of bolted plastic chairs, noting nothing particularly French: a feeling of ennui and nerves, except for some children playing air hockey near the concession machine, gesticulating. I imagine you in the station, holding a ticket, saying, “I told you I was a terrible traveler.” You do not like France; it is hard to remember what it is you like.
Aisha Sabatini Sloan
Episode 22: “Form and Formlessness”
In an essay specially commissioned for the podcast, Aisha Sabatini Sloan describes rambling around Paris with her father, Lester Sloan, a longtime staff photographer for Newsweek, and a glamorous woman who befriends them. In an excerpt from The Art of Fiction no. 246, Rachel Cusk and Sheila Heti discuss how writing her first novel helped Cusk discover her “shape or identity or essence.” Next, Allan Gurganus’s reading of his story “It Had Wings,” about an arthritic woman who finds a fallen angel in her backyard, is interspersed with a version of the story rendered as a one-woman opera by the composer Bruce Saylor. The episode closes with “Dear Someone,” a poem by Deborah Landau.
Rachel Cusk photo courtesy the author.
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