Fat Books & Thin Women

Story Sundays: Nathaniel Bellows’s “Nan”
May 8, 2011, 5:47 pm
Filed under: short stories, Story Sundays

Story Sundays is a weekly feature at Fat Books & Thin Women. Always short stories, always ones available online for free.

Pages to Pixels recently ran an interview with Nathaniel Bellows. You should read the interview even if you haven’t heard of Bellows (I hadn’t), but after you do that go read his story “Nan.” The story is first in a series about a girl who moves from Vermont to New York to attend college.

Bellows does a fantastic job capturing place, both physical spaces (you can almost read Nan’s personality through her home in rural Vermont, though Vermont makes few appearances in the story) and temporal (being a young woman new to a city, new to college).

Nan accepts a scholarship to attend college in New York just four months after her brother’s death, at her parents’ urging. Bellows captures perfectly the lack of ease Nan feels in this world, as when she goes for a dinner at her advisor’s home:

It was spring, and in an effort to look nice, perhaps even cosmopolitan, Nan had worn a skirt. But when she sat down for dinner, she noticed it rose up higher on her knees than she’d realized. So she stuffed her napkin into the crease between her thighs and turned her legs strategically away from wherever she thought the boys might be playing. She ate slowly, carefully, wiping her oily hands, only when necessary, on her socks.

The story centers on Nan’s attempts to understand her relationship with her advisor, through which she sees some opportunity to be someone other than she’s always been. The story’s worth reading, though, for the appearances of her roommate Mimi alone.

Read “Nan” online

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Great story. I can identify with Nan in certain respects, both in her internal qualms and a couple of the external details, such as being a displaced New Englander.

Comment by Christy

I don’t love this story, to be honest. The story seems too familiar, the prose too lack in originality. The situations and descriptions all seem like something I’ve read before, and the shifts in time were awkward. Oh well, I can’t love them all.

Comment by Jennifer Marcketta

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