Issue #113: The Tremulant

I love letters. I miss getting them in the mail. These days everyone communicates via email–that instant gratifier. But somehow, at least for me, email never reaches the same level of confidence. Reading someone else’s letters, such as
Raymond Carver and Gordon Lish,
or the new volume of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop’s correspondence can be illuminating, as well as giving you the guilty pleasure of eavesdropping on an intimate conversation. It’s this exposure that Ben Greeman plays with in our new issue, “The Tremulant.” Here the married narrator, Francisco Ramirez, writes to his lover, who has just left him for another man. In the letters, we see their relationship through the ugly break-up–which spurs his desire to write–then follow his memory back to their first meeting, up until their last goodbye. As the story progresses, the reader realizes that Francisco’s letters have never been sent. They are his attempts to maintain a connection to someone who no longer loves him. Ben Greenman tells the story simply and flawlessly, drawing out the meaning of words, and showing how difficult it really is to communicate with any accuracy, especially when our emotions are involved. Ben also continues this exploration of the letter form in his new book, Correspondences, just out with Hotel St. George Press, in a beautiful, handmade letter-press edition (later editions will include this story). This book, and this story, are both tributes to the lost art of letter writing, and reflect how, though we are now able to communicate with greater speed and efficiency, people find it harder to connect.

4 thoughts on “Issue #113: The Tremulant

  1. I read this story last night from the middle to the end and then from the front to the middle and on to the end again. It was that kind of story. “Etiolated,” she said. “There’s a word for it.” I love the way each character uses language, the way each has not only an individual voice, but an individual life. I love that he writes a letter to a letter. To the thought of her rather than to her. Makes me want to read Correspondences. Thank you.

  2. Of the stories I have read since receiving “One Story,” this is by far the best. So unusual, intriguing, exceptionally well written. I’ve read it 2x and will again. Would love to read more of the writer’s work.

  3. I just read this incredibly, tearjerking break-up story. It shouldn’t have been so sad because it was between a married man and his mistress, but the fact that he was married made it even more forlorn. His marriage was “stalled.” It was a distant and empty relationship. That gave him no right to commit adultery, but the heartbreak he felt afterwards was real and heavy. The sadness oozed from the pages as he remembered things he said and things he should have said. In the end, he knew he had to let it go because the love for her was greater than his selfishness. I loved the line, “I had watched a man claim you, and I had thought mainly of your happiness, and how you might truly secure it.”

  4. This is a good one. It starts a little slow until you realize that the first page of philosophical meanderings are a set up for the one liner on page 2 about the narrator getting fired from his waiter job. The dialogue is crisp & funny. And there’s real human emotion in this story. I loved it when the mistress tells him: “The space between us [on the park bench] represents your wife.”

    I wanted to know more about the sous-chef named Clementine, the only person who shed a tear when the narrator was fired from his waiter job. But maybe that’s another story.

    My only complaint: somehow I wanted a different ending from the usual existential ennui. But that’s a mere quibble. I didn’t find it a tearjerker. Too funny for that. And a question: if he was a rich guy like he claims, why didn’t he leave his wife? And even if he wasn’t a rich guy, why didn’t he leave his wife? She sounds like a nightmare. Maybe she had compromising photos.

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