Fleishman Is in Trouble

Emily Gould writes:

We first encounter Rachel Fleishman through the eyes of her ex-husband, Toby, who is trying to come to terms with her absence. He notices all the places in his life where she is not. ‘She was not in his bed. She was not in the bathroom, applying liquid eyeliner to the area where her eyelid met her eyelashes … She was not at the gym, or coming back from the gym in a less black mood than usual, not by much but a little.’ ‘She was not’ in a few other places, too. Long litanies comprised of sentences that all start the same way are one of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s things. A few pages later, when we meet Toby and Rachel’s 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, for the first time, the words ‘Or because’ preface 12 different possible explanations for Rachel’s increasingly bitchy behaviour. Brodesser-Akner gets away with this maximalism. She doesn’t just get away with it, she uses these passages to add to her story’s landslide momentum. She doesn’t just get away with it, she downright relishes her refusal ever to land on just one perfect description or just one plausible explanation, because she’s a natural raconteur whose knack for trapping readers in her web must leave her editors in a state of exhausted inertia. Cut a redundancy and you risk disrupting whatever intangible thing is creating that flow; best just to leave the whole thing intact, maybe adding some paragraph breaks to let the reader gasp for breath before plunging back in.

(LRB 21 November 2019)

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