by Morgan on January 25, 2012
In the 2010 Fiction issue of The Atlantic, there was a story called The Landscape of Pleasure, by Amanda Briggs, and I loved it. I read it and loved it, and then I lost it.
I’d bought the magazine right before moving, and somewhere between my old apartment and my new one, I lost it. I didn’t think about it at the time, because it’s a magazine, but I also wasn’t aware yet of how deeply this story had affected me.
Weeks and months passed, and then one day I was flipping through The Best American Short Stories 2010, and I thought, none of these are what I want right now. I had this craving for the perfect short story, the one that would bore down into a very specific part of me, and satisfy something I couldn’t name. While I enjoyed them, none of the stories in the collection were hitting the spot. I asked myself, what am I looking for, exactly?
And then I realized that I’d already read the story I was looking for. I could remember the endoskeletal details of it: a teenage girl, a country club, an affair with her father’s friend, wet suburban lawns, a hot summer, her last one before college. I wanted to read THAT story again, but I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it.
I tend to keep magazines around. In my living room at the time I had about 50 issues of The New Yorker, ditto New York Magazine, and about 5o other miscellaneous magazines. I went through them all, and didn’t find it. Went online, couldn’t find it. Went on goodreads.com and posted in a forum dedicated specifically to literary mysteries of this variety. People write things like, “Book that has the word dog in the title, something about a kid?” and other readers come to the rescue. No luck there, either.
And actually, I can’t even remember how I did find it. But I found it, and reread it, and loved it even more. I’ve read it about ten times now, and I still love it. It’s so sensuous. It captures — traps, distills, and holds up to the light — so beautifully that white-hot, slightly dangerous moment when the teenage girl crosses over the threshold of womanhood without really knowing it; when she learns that she is in possession of deadly serious sexual power, and that others can see it, can feel it, can smell it coming off her like a mating call. And then: all of the things (and friends) that she has to shed like an old skin, because you can’t go back.
You must read this story. Don’t skip ahead, but do finish it, because the last line killed me. Kills me every time.
And now my question is: where the hell is Amanda Briggs? The author blurb attached to the story says, “Amanda Briggs is at work on a collection of short stories.”
Okay. Good. Excellent.
How far along are you, Amanda? Do you have a publisher? Any other pieces coming out soon? Why can’t I find you on the internet? Do you exist? Will you be my friend? If you’re out there, Ms. Briggs, announce yourself. I’m your biggest fan.