Last week, when volunteer Suzanne Wendell strolled into our offices, we complimented her new chin-length bob. “Nice ‘do,” we said. “I did it myself,” she replied. “Huh?” we said, because Suzanne’s hair actually looked pretty good, nothing like the inch-from-the-hairline bangs we cut for ourselves when we were kids. “Yeah,” she replied. “Actually, I moonlight as a stylist to the stars. If you want, I could give you guys a makeover.” Of course, we put ourselves completely in her capable hands.
Extracurricular hair-cutting aside, Suzanne also participates in a multitude of editorial activities at the CR office, including blogging for our Why We Like It series. Here’s Suzanne’s take on Lauri Anderson Alford’s “The People Who Ignore You Are the People Who Live Here,” from soon-to-be-released issue 9.2:
Suzanne Wendell: There’s something about the voice of Alford’s narrator that immediately attracted me to this story, something subtle and reticent. “The People Who Ignore You Are the People Who Live Here” is set up as a mystery, the mystery of what happened to the narrator’s fiancé, Leo, but there is a smaller mystery on every page. The narrator herself remains something of an enigma throughout her narrative, and in her ambivalence toward her missing lover, the mysteries of their relationship, and perhaps all relationships, are amplified.
Alford intertwines humor and sadness with an almost inadvertent ease. The narrator describes the billboard of Leo’s picture erected during her search for him as “less like a call for help than an advertisement for a cruise ship.” In her deadpan tone she observes, “Alaska, he seemed to be saying, It’s not just for old people.” Her explanation for treating Leo’s disappearance so casually in the beginning, “I thought we were having a fight,” perfectly illuminates what so much of the story is about; the silliness and tragedy and bewilderment of the whole thing.
One of my favorite novels is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I love it because the most important character is dead before the story even starts. Similarly, Leo has almost more presence in the story than the narrator, despite him never appearing outside of flashbacks. Alford’s readers will know him, feel the loss of him, and feel haunted by him. They will understand why his jilted fiancé agonizes over him, but they still may not expect the final chilling sentence of the story.