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Greenman, Ben

Helpmate, Ben Greenman

Not long ago, I found myself in the unfortunate position of being deeply ensconced in a marvelous book while on a crowded public transportation system. “Nothing unfortunate about that, Miette,” you’ve said. I heard you.

The unfortunate thing was that the title of the book, when viewed from across a subway car, can seem offensive. And was seen as offensive, based on the shuffling and shifting and awkward faux-coughing that I only noticed later.

Which reminded me that a month or two prior, I was reading this in one of the world’s most busily trafficked airports. Which also offended lots of people, visibly, but I didn’t care. The book was too good.

I don’t have any other such books in my Leaning Tower of Books to Read Soon, but now I’m a little saddened by that. There’s something powerful in reading a double-take-inducing book. Even if people find it foul or offensive (but then again, I’m one who hasn’t minded being considered either of these things. So here’s my plea to you for the day. You know the movie trope involving the geeky comix kid, the one we learn is a geeky comix kid because he tucks the comic book inside his school book? I’m looking some equally offensive book titles, into which I can sandwich the actual books I’ll be reading. Unless those offensively titled books are good, in which case I’ll just add to my Tower. Any ideas?

Meanwhile, Ben Greenman’s book doesn’t have an offensive title, unless you’re poised to do nothing. It, however, should be read all the same.

TECHNICAL NOTE: my megafancy headphones developed a bad case of psoriasis during the editing of this piece, so the sound quality may itself be offensive. Hopefully not too much… hopefully.

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By miette

Miette has been podcasting the best of world literature's short fiction since March 2005, when she was just a pup.

6 replies on “Helpmate, Ben Greenman”

I’m ashamed to say I hated that story and I loved the telling of it. I may have loved the telling in an American accent even more, but probably would never have heard it. Probably would never had come upon it to read.

Thank you.

Hi Deborah– no shame there! I think if everyone loved every story I selected, it’d make you weird or me all powerful. I don’t know if you’re weird or not, and according to my wallet, I’m lacking in the power department.

But I’m glad you have the stones to say you hated it! And very glad you listened anyway. xo Miette

uh, on one of my first ‘dates’ with my wife she brought along dale Peck’s ‘Fucking Martin’. there’s also a book by Stuart Holme (I think) called ‘Blow Job’. Conrad’s ‘Nigger of the Narcissis’? anyone?

The best thing about the Conrad is that “Narcissus” is the word chosen for clarifying “quotes.”

I should’ve known you’d have a few titles in your pocket.

I just found my way to this podcast and love it. And I love this story. I am interested that people hate or love it. I wonder why. I used to think that was the definition of art, strong reactions. Maybe it is still.

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