Jean Stafford’s Children are Bored on Sunday is one of my favorite short stories. My first experience with the story was an aural one. I am very fond of storytelling as an aural experience and love the New Yorker’s podcast Fiction for that reason. It gives authors the chance to select their favorite stories from past New Yorkers. This was chosen by Hilton Als. You can listen to the podcast here. I adore his reason for choosing this story.
The second photo is of Robert Lowell, Jean Stafford and Peter Taylor in 1941.
The audio was broadcast just after my graduation from college. I remember lying on my bed in my hot city apartment falling in love with Stafford’s words. Feeling like I was stuck between “intellectual” and “rube” myself, I connected so closely with the main character.
It is difficult to sepearte a favorite line as Staffords words flow together as both panicked and lyrical prose. Here are a few:
“It had been spring, and even into that modern apartment, wherever it had been, while the cunning guests, on their guard and highly civilized, learnedly disputed on aesthetic and political subjects, the feeling of spring had boldly invaded, adding its nameless sentimental sensations to all the others of the buffeted heart; one did not know and never had, even in the devouring raptures of adolescence, whether this was a feeling of tension or of solution – whether one flew or drowned.”
“How different it would have been if education had not meddled with her rustic nature! Her education had never dissuaded her from her convictions, but certainly it had ruined the looks of her mind – painted the poor thing up until it looked like a mean, hypocritical, promiscuous malcontent, a craven and apologetic fancy woman.”
“She wanted them to go together to some hopelessly disreputable bar and to console one another in the most maudlin fashion over a lengthy succession of powerful drinks of whisky, to compare their illnesses, to marry their invalid souls for these few hours of painful communion, and to babble with rapture that they were at last, for a little while, no longer alone.”
Als speculates that the story title may have come from the song Les Enfants Sennuient le Dimanche by Charles Trénet. Oliver Peoples did a beautiful video for their 2010 Campaign by the same title. The films sentiments are certainly more upbeat than the story, but both take me to a time I wish I could travel back to: