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The Washington Post Magazine loves to experiment with first-person narratives. Sometimes they’re gripping; other times, they’re miserable.
This past weekend’s edition features a piece that falls in the former category. It’s by an L.A. journalist named Kate Hahn and it’s titled, “A Scoop of Scandal: During the summer of the Iran-contra hearings, she was dishing out her own brand of justice.” It’s just a narrative by some woman who worked in Bob’s, a G’town ice-cream parlor, in the summer of ’87, right in the thick of Iran-Contra hearings. The climax of the piece is when she serves I-C character Robert MacFarlane some ice cream.
It was a routine transaction, so there was not really a lot of drama packed into it. Yet somehow, Hahn manages to spin an engrossing tale of summertime, of the sort that Style section writers and poets and essayists so often fail so miserably at. She talks about a crush on a co-worker, a punker who goes by the name Ivor and has to be Ivor Hanson. She talks about being alone at home and lounging in the pool. It all works.
Just so you get the point, take a look at Style’s summer piece from last month, which includes this:
“Summer’s honey breath whispers, blowing faintly over people caught in transitions in these hot months when we believe life is supposed to be easy. Instead, summer finds some unsettled, some worried, separating, getting older, traveling from one stage to the next.
If winter is the best time to tell sad stories, summer is the time to tell stories of transition.”
And then Hahn:
“As the summer went on, we lingered at my car after closing up, talking past the time the pint I was taking home started to melt. And later, while I swam, I began to think how great it would be to see his shadow next to mine on the bottom of the illuminated pool. But he had a girlfriend, and I doubted he was interested in me. I was too far away from the very center of coolness. So I went in every day, keeping my crush to myself, and doling out my frozen ounces of reward and punishment.”