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A Radically Condensed History of Postindustrial Life

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First published in the literary magazine Ploughshares in Spring 1998, this extremely short (73-word) story is printed on page "0" of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

The Story

When they were introduced, he made a witticism, hoping to be liked. She laughed very hard, hoping to be liked. Then each drove home alone, staring straight ahead, with the very same twist to their faces.

The man who'd introduced them didn't much like either of them, though he acted as if he did, anxious as he was to preserve good relations at all times. One never knew, after all, now did one.

Interpretation

Serving as an introduction to the rest of the stories, Postindustrial Life illustrates the luxury of being concerned with other’s perceptions. The first two characters share an empty interaction then drive home alone (isolated in their steel boxes). Regarding the third character, it is hard to say what exactly “one never knew,” but the emphasis is on “good relations” (0). The repetition of “now did one” creates a tone of hysteria, a spinning out.