Tag: 1990s

35 articles


The misadventures of two hospital workers, from the 1992 collection Jesus' Son.

"The eye man was on vacation or something. While the hospital’s operator called around to find someone else just as good, the other specialists were hurrying through the night to join us. I stood around looking at charts and chewing up more of Georgie’s pills. Some of them tasted the way urine smells, some of them burned, some of them tasted like chalk. Various nurses, and two physicians who’d been tending somebody in I.C.U., were hanging out down here with us now."



A Profile Auditor goes sniffing after anomalies in the consumption habits and personal data of an unsuspecting hotel clerk.

"Through the Demosphere we fly, we men of the Database Maintenance Division, and although the Demosphere belongs to General Communications Inc., it is the schmos of the world who make it - every time a schmo surfs to a different channel, the Demosphere notes that he is bored with program A and more interested, at the moment, in program B. When a schmo's paycheck is delivered over the I-way, the number on the bottom line is plotted in his Profile, and if that schmo got it by telecommuting we know about that too - the length of his coffee breaks and the size of his bladder are an open book to us. When a schmo buys something on the I-way it goes into his Profile, and if it happens to be something that he recently saw advertised there, we call that interesting, and when he uses the I-way to phone his friends and family, we Profile Auditors can navigate his social web out to a gazillion fractal iterations, the friends of his friends of his friends of his friends, what they buy and what they watch and if there's a correlation."


Gedney Goes Bohemian

In pursuit of "cool," a man immerses himself in a subculture of kite enthusiasts. From the newly-online archives of The Baffler.

"Gedney had read an article in Men’s Journal on the kite craze in Europe, and he knew he wanted to be a part of it. He had grown tired of his rollerblades and his mountain bike; he hungered for a new lifestyle, a new set of accessories. After reading the article, though, Gedney had made a terrible mistake: he dusted off the old single piece bat-wing kite he had flown on the beach as a youth and headed for Sheep’s Meadow. There he was astonished to see a vast number of kite practitioners, most of them proudly and skillfully flying double-tails, box kites, even a few difficult Chinese dragons. 'How did I get so far behind so quickly?' Gedney thought as he somewhat shamefully unfurled his childish kite."



A disillusioned actress, retiring from show business, moves to the Midwest.

"And so she left Hollywood. Phoned her agent and apologized. Went home to Chicago, rented a room by the week at the Days Inn, drank sherry, and grew a little plump. She let her life get dull—dull, but with Hostess cakes. There were moments bristling with deadness, when she looked out at her life and went 'What?' Or worse, feeling interrupted and tired, 'Wha--?' It had taken on the shape of a terrible mistake. She hadn't been given the proper tools to make a real life with, she decided, that was it. She'd been given a can of gravy and a hairbrush and told, "There you go." She'd stood there for years, blinking and befuddled, brushing the can with the brush.


The Stare

A clash of culture, sex, and need between an English wife and her Greek husband.

"On this day Mary goes home excited and restless and sits in front of her looking glass and examines herself. She often does this. She is plump, pretty, with ruddy cheeks, black curls, and a lot of well-placed dimples, and Dmitri calls her his little blackberry. But she has gray eyes, and he says that if it weren’t for those cool English eyes he could believe she has Greek blood. His black eyes easily smolder, or burn, or reproach. Mary leans her forearms among the little bottles of scent, the lipsticks, the eye paint, and tries out expressions. She puts a long unsmiling unblinking stare on her face and frightens herself with it."


Close Your Eyes and Think of England

A day in the life of a twelve year-old girl: feminine sacrifice and reversed parenting/gender roles.

"When she's not ricocheting between coasts to spearhead corporate sales and yoga retreats, our mother is skipping off to islands (Cuba, the Canaries, Greenland) and leaving me typed notes that become more and more blunt and encoded. She doesn't spend much time with our father--none of the mothers do--and they have all become so hard and muscular and breastless that you wouldn't want a hug from them even if you were feeling bad."


The Banks of The Vistula

A student plagiarizes a paper, and is drawn into an ongoing debate about oppression.

"Some parts of the paper I had just copied down verbatim, without really understanding, and now I was stuck with them. Now they were my opinions."


A Small Wild Road

A niece's tense, monotonous visits with her bedridden aunt; an unexpected, grisly turn of events.

"Uncongenial was the word for that atmosphere; but not painful, not ugly. Then, quite soon, with the utmost perverseness, it turned very ugly indeed. Sophie faithlessly developed a horrifying and terminal, but not very promptly terminal, illness. And after a series of live-in nurses (friendly, but beset by all the normal misadventures of daily life) had held the fort spasmodically, Sophie had ended at Holly Hill, and Edie in the first major possession of her life: a midget and not particularly nice apartment, but sunny, quiet, except for music and casual voices, and never, never, never a source of shock."


Under Ice

An incident on a frozen stream, excerpted from Banks' 1993 novel, Complicity.

"We were told not to do this, told not to come here, told to sledge and throw snowballs and make snowmen all we wanted, but not even to come near the loch and the river, in case we fell through the ice; and yet Andy came here after we'd sledged for a while on the slope near the farm, walked down here through the woods despite my protests, and then when we got here to the river bank I said well, as long as we only looked, but then Andy just whooped and jumped down onto the boulder-lumped white slope of shore and sprinted out across the pure flat snow towards the far bank."


The Harvest

A series of hallucination-like memories in the aftermath of a car accident.

"The accident happened at sunset, so that is when I felt this way the most. The man I had met the week before was driving me to dinner when it happened. The place was at the beach, a beach on a bay that you can look across and see the city lights, a place where you can see everything without having to listen to any of it. A long time later I went to that beach myself. I drove the car. It was the first good beach day; I wore shorts."


Brief Interviews With Hideous Men

A one-sided interview about a one night stand and a detailed, harrowing story about a sexual assault.

"That it was a titanic struggle, she said, in the Cutlass, heading deeper into the secluded area, because whenever for a moment her terror bested her or she for any reason lost her intense focus on the mulatto, even for a moment, the effect on the connection was obvious—his profile smiled and his right eye again went empty and dead as he recrudesced and began once again to singsong psychotically about the implements in his trunk and what he had in store for her once he found the ideal secluded spot, and she could tell that in the wavering of the soul-connection he was automatically reverting to resolving his connectionary conflict in the only way he knew. And I clearly remember her saying that by this time, whenever she succumbed and lost her focus for a moment and his eye and face reverted to creepy psychotic unconflicted relaxation, she was surprised to find herself feeling no longer paralyzing terror for herself but a nearly heartbreaking sadness for him, for the psychotic mulatto. And I’ll say that it was at roughly this point of listening to the story, still nude in bed, that I began to admit to myself that not only was it a remarkable postcoital anecdote but that this was, in certain ways, rather a remarkable woman, and that I felt a bit sad or wistful that I had not noticed this level of remarkability when I had first been attracted to her in the park."


The Crossing [Excerpt]

With a mix of danger and empathy, a teenager attempts to save an injured wolf.

"She turned and wheeled away. So quick. He hardly had time to get one heel in front of him in the dirt before she hit the end of the rope. She did a cartwheel and landed on her back and jerked him forward onto his elbows. He scrambled up but she was already off in another direction and when she hit the end of the rope again she almost snatched him off the ground. He turned and dug both heels in and took a turn of the rope around his wrist. She had swung toward the horse now and the horse snorted and set off toward the road at a trot with the reins trailing. She ran at the end of the rope in a circle until she passed the cholla that had first caught the trapchain drag and here the rope brought her around until she stood snubbed and gasping among the thorns."