“Imperial Chrysanthemum” appears in this spring’s Paris Review, which is now available in bookstores. Nathaniel Rich and Philip Gourevitch (!) both very kindly sent me copies in the mail, but I sought the issue out in a Barnes & Noble in Durham and took its picture. If you can’t find a copy in Richmond, by the way, it’s probably because my mother bought them all.
A couple of things about The Paris Review–they do not mess around with their edits, which you probably could have guessed. My story, which features the theft of some old family silver and an approximation of its value, was fact-checked (and corrected) by Sotheby’s. Also, a great way to procrastinate is to read their author interviews, many of which are archived on their website.
And a little something about the story: I have a cat named Loretta, which is the name of one of the characters in “Imperial Chrysanthemum.” Loretta of “Imperial Chrysanthemum” has had her name longer than Loretta of Chatham County.
I love the name Loretta. It’s so pretty, plus there’s Loretta Lynn. Something about naming is magical and comforting. One thing I like about teaching children is learning new names (“Really? Your name is Queensheba, one word? How fabulous!”), and sometimes a student’s name will stick with me for a long time. Before Loretta, we fostered a kitten I found and named Tyisha after a very sweet first-grader with a squeaky voice and tremendous reading ability. After the kitten was adopted, her name was changed to Scoober.
But Loretta’s naming felt sort of sad, because at the time I thought, about the whole collection, “this book will probably not see the light of day.” I was proud of it, but at the time I had an agent and he was not excited about selling books of short stories. We met and had lunch in New York and talked about novels. Then he stopped writing back. He was, as they say, not that into me. I was also teaching fifth grade at the time, and it can be hard to feel like a writer when you’re teaching fifth grade.
However, I am writing this post to say this: amazing things happen when you least expect them, and even when you don’t quite believe them. I knew about the possibility of “Imperial Chrysanthemum”‘s publication for a while before I said anything to anyone except Richard, and I didn’t post about it here until I had a tangible copy for people to see.
I’m glad for both Lorettas to have a home. Loretta is a terrific cat. But Loretta the nurse and aspiring boatwoman, she is something too.