February 12, 2020: “Myths of the Body” by Jenn Scott

Hello, Story366!

Wow, could I bore you with some stories from today! It was a busy one, as most Wednesdays are for me, a day that started with a meeting, followed by another meeting, followed by class (which is, let’s face it, a meeting), topped off by another meeting. I could easily fill some space here by describing each meeting in detail, but I think I’ll spare all of you that and just say that for each event, multiple people gathered in the same place, at the same time, for a specific purpose. Once that purpose was achieved—or time ran out—everyone dispersed. That happened four times to me today. In-between, I prepared and ate some meals, made it so some of our clothes and dishes that had been dirty are no longer dirty, and also took a shower. What a inspiring day!

Really, it wasn’t all that bad, just not something I’d like to hang my hat on, write about in a blog. I wonder if on these days I should just skip right into the story talk, not try to diary or relay any kind of personal essay. Would loyal Story366 readers wonder what was up? Am I assuming too much when I think I need to adhere to a formula? Certainly, I could talk about the New Hampshire primary or the second day of Spring Training instead. Really, though, after a four-meeting day, I’ll jus head into the story.

Lucky for me my day is being capped by reading a great book and then getting to write about it. Today I broke into Jenn Scott’s collection, Her Adult Life, out from Acre Books in 2017. Lately I’ve been on a streak of writers I’ve never read before and you can add Scott to that list, today my first exposure to her work.

I read a few stories from Her Adult Life and think I have a decent feel for what Scott does. The first story, “Narrative Time,” is one sentence long, just six words, but has a seven-page, 10-point-font footnote about a bunch of people convening at a coffee shop. The title story, “Her Adult Life,” was next, about a woman, Kate, who has just been kicked out of an eight-year relationship. Kate has to face life as an adult; her touchstone? A two-hundred-dollar knife that she bought while drunk one night, the knife that was supposed to symbolize her coming-of-age, the knife she keeps misplacing. Both of these are solid stories, and per usual, I was set to write about the title story, to go into much more detail on that knife.

Then I read “Myths of the Body” and decided to all-in on it instead. “Myths of the Body” is about Ana, a twenty-two-year-old assistant manager at a Long John Silver’s-type place (it might just be Long John Silver’s), who, as you might guess, is questioning her life choices. She’s been at the job for four years, since the day after high school graduation, and hasn’t made any progress toward much of anything in life, be it career, education, or relationships. She’s in a sad holding pattern and very aware of it.

Flanking Ana are Donny, a younger and newer employee who’s figured out what Ana has, only much sooner, and Frank, the site manager and an old classmate of Ana’s who got his job simply because he started on the managerial track from the get-go. Ana and Donny spend their days prepping the restaurant and complaining about their lots. Ana and Frank see each other outside of work, but you wouldn’t know it—and in fact, we don’t know it, not until late in the story when Ana mentions it, almost in passing. Frank is clearly as long-term a plan as the fish job, but until she figures something else out, it’s what Ana has going on.

Scott has a seductive style that allows her to write a long story—this one’s twenty-five pages, probably six or seven thousand words—without much in the way of plot. Scott can spin a yarn, though, and does so quite often in “Myths of the Body,” veering off on tangents to explain characters, provide backstory, or just distract from the mundanity of the fried fish joint where this takes place (Muzak versions of songs like “How Will I Know” and “Careless Whisper” play on a loop). If not for the threat of a district manager coming for an inspection, there really wouldn’t be any rising action or tension in this story. Aside from the existential angst that Ana feels constantly, of course. Let’s not forget that.

Yet, “Myths of the Body” is a tremendously intoxicating story. I don’t like to categorize people by generations, but I can’t help but feel like Ana is a typcial millennial, existing, making do, waiting for something to happen that’s probably not going to happen. It’s ironic, then, because Scott revolves Ana’s tale—or what resembles a resolutioin—in a very Gen-X way, a real middle finger to the establishment. Or maybe I don’t really know what defines these generations. All I know is, I like how this story ended, what Ana did, given her circumstances, what we know about her, what Scott has built with all those words.

Jenn Scott seems to like lost souls, individuals confronting lives they are not prepared to confront. That would make sense as a theme for a book entitled Her Adult Life, Scott’s women forced into the next phase, forced to come of age. I really enjoyed these stories, between this theme and Scott’s unparalleled eye for detail. High recommendation here, a book I want to delve into further for sure.