It was unlucky week 13 of the Deal Me In short story reading challenge (or maybe it's lucky, who knows?) and the 9 of clubs served up a story from The Best American Short Stories 1986 -- an interesting little story by Frank Conroy. I was unfamiliar with him or his work, but Google tells me that he was the director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop for 18 years. Interestingly (or not), he began his directorship of that program a couple of years after this story was first published in Esquire.
"Gossip" is the story of George, a young writer who finds himself at a weeklong beach retreat with a group of his writer friends, and without his wife. He has a tryst with a young actress, Susan, who has joined them. They carry on their brief affair the whole time they're at the beach, not believing that they are getting away with it, and that no one seems to know about it -- but it's true. The week at the beach ends and Susan and George go their separate ways, and no one is the wiser.
Some years after this, George is a writing teacher and gets a new student, Joan, who turns out to be highly promising as a writer. George sees her potential, and puts in countless hours meeting and working with her, reading her material and helping her polish her prose. Everything is going swimmingly until Joan begins to grow distant and eventually leaves the program suddenly. George is perplexed until he finds out that someone has spread gossip about him and Joan having an affair on the side, when in fact they have been as chaste and pure as the driven snow.
There was more to this story, but this is the gist of it. And I really didn't enjoy this story that much. It was well-written, and the ironic twist of George getting away with his real affair and being blamed for an affair he never conducted was interesting. But in the end, it was just...... eh.
The Deal Me In short story challenge is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
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