Spoiled Children of Divorce


“Safari” by Jennifer Egan

Heard a partial short story reading on NPR while driving tonight.  “Safari” by Jennifer Egan.  As happens while driving the car I usually haven’t got a clue what I’m listening to and for some reason it’s always really interesting that way.  Egan was interviewed after the reading and explained parts of the story which have to do with “unstable family situations.”  She discussed her own childhood and her parents’ divorce.  So I had to come home to see if the story is available on the Internet.  Turns out there’s an editor at The New Yorker who doesn’t mind publishing stories about Children of Divorce:

Safari.

The story is about a “family” going on a Safari vacation together for three weeks.  Dad is twice divorced and has brought along his new girlfriend.  Two of his children are there.   All the characters are weaving in and out of understanding of what their relationships with each other are.  The story is told from the fractured points of view of each character and with a fractured sense of timing, a sort of whirlwind of who, what, when, why where, which expresses the unstable situation.  Relationships, Sex, self understanding, grief, boredom are all told by characters at completely different places in their lives and without any cohesive tribal understanding of the events.  In the background, meanwhile, there is the structured scheduling of the trip and on another level the lives of each character past, present and future is told with a sort of innocent but frightening frankness.   I think that this is sort of the attitude that Children of Divorce take on in life in order to try to make sense of it all.  There was no sense of emotion, the characters continue with their lives trying to follow along the way they have followed the scheduling of this trip.  Event after event is told with a sort of inability to really feel what is going on.  In the end there is this matter of factness about how life unfolds along with a great sense of emotional loss.  (Sorry went on a little too long here, but I really liked the story)

Jennifer Egan’s parents divorced when she was around 2 years old.  Her Father was an alcoholic who rehabed in his 40s.  She was her parents’ only child together and was the oldest in her new family that her Mother created with her Step Father.  Egan was born in the Midwest.  Moved to San Francisco when she was 7 years old.  She is married and I believe has two sons and lives on the East Coast.  I can’t vouch for the accuracy of any of these details.


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