The Start of Something by Stuart Dybek
The Start of Something
These selected short stories are set mainly in the Polish Chicago of the gifted writer’s youth and young adulthood. “Aren’t there chance meetings in every life that don’t play out, stories that seem meant to remain ghostly, as faint and fleeting as the reflection of a face on the window of a bus?” asks the title story memorably, and we’re not sure whether the chance meeting in the story does or doesn’t play out to a tragic denouement. Music figures prominently: Tosca tells the stories of three of the narrator’s friends who lived life like an opera; Chopin in Winter has a young boy listening to a pregnant neighbour practising the Études during a bitter Chicago winter, while in The Long Thoughts, a boy expelled from school finds consolation listening to Debussy. Literary references also abound. Waiting is a moving story of unrequited love with many asides referencing Hemingway, and Córdoba, a different kind of love story, features quotes from Lorca. A weakness is that the female characters are never as fully rounded as their male counterparts.