This is the opening passage from “State of Grace,” from Harold Brodkey’s short story collection First Love and Other Sorrows. Here, Brodkey sets the tone for the entire story and immediately transports the reader into his grim, nostalgic memory of St. Louis.
“There is a certain shade of red brick—a dark, almost melodious red, sombre and riddled with blue—that is my childhood in St. Louis. Not the real childhood, but the false one that extends from the dawning of consciousness until the day that one leaves home for college. That one shade of red brick and green foliage is St. Louis in the summer (the winter is just a gray sky and a crowded school bus and the wet footprints on the brown linoleum floor at school), and that brick and a pale sky is spring. It’s also loneliness and the queer, self-pitying wonder that children whose families are having catastrophes feel.”
Absolutely one of my favorite writers, Brodkey is a master at setting tone and navigating difficult subjects. “State of Grace” is fantastic; I’m sure I’ll feature it again.
A link to The New Yorker publication of the story: State of Grace
And here is a link to Richard Ford with an excellent reading of the story for The New Yorker Fiction Podcast:State of Grace: Richard Ford Reading