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Editor's Pick: "White Space" by Amanda McCormick
August 12, 2014
Fiction Editor Suzanne McConnell on “White Space” by Amanda McCormick:
By way of gliding around it, by way of never naming it outright, by way of the narrator’s numb shock, this story manages to capture the unspeakable, what seems impossible to articulate, the effect of the assault, on those of us in Manhattan, of September 11, 2001. It’s a truism that if you write well and concretely of one person’s experience, that will speak for the universal. Written in first person, Amanda McCormick succeeds in relating her narrator’s particular loss, her own accidental escape, and her slow groping towards regaining life in the aftermath so movingly and accurately that when I first read it, it took my breath away. Even now, re-reading it, it plunges me back to the collective shock of that day and so many days afterward, months. Even the title, “White Space,” connotes the heart’s core of that time. Empty. Blown away. A survivor’s emptiness, stunned lack. It’s interesting that the BLR has received few submissions touching on this trauma. But this one is sufficient: it is a masterpiece.
Amanda McCormick is a writer who lives and works in Brooklyn.
"White Space" appears in BLR V9N1 (Spring 2009).
White Space, by Amanda McCormick
She had to get to work. It was that thought that kept her moving against the tide of people pushing past her on Sixth Avenue. She had overslept and now she had to get to work. Her cell phone rang and she ducked back away from the crowds pushing against her path. Knowing who it was, she just pressed the phone to her ear, listening to him breathing. She tried to block out the shouting, the hundreds of feet on the pavement, running.
Though she had always told herself it was only temporary, though she hadn’t made any real friends there, she had liked her job all right, the analysis of start-ups, the living hum of money and promise. She had a place in a cool white-walled room and took advantage of the calm it brought her. Starting out with data entry, the tasks they gave her were easy and diverting, lulling her into a state of suspension where random snapshots from her past would bubble to the surface of her consciousness, like the disjointed portents in a Magic 8 ball. Patent leather shoes on a carpeted expanse of Marshall Fields when she was ten. Friends of hers in the arts—directors of photography, traditional music enthusiasts—were being lured away and fattened with cash by dotcoms, start-ups of the type her firm analyzed. The symbiosis of patron and patronized was growing ever more confused, at least when she joined her artist friends for drinks. So you work downtown with all the suits now? What’s that like?