The Story Behind the Story “Loneliness,” by Rebecca Rosenblum

RRosenblum-HeadshotToday’s post is written by Rebecca Rosenblum, whose short story “Loneliness”  (excerpted from The Big Dream, Biblioasis 2011 ) we recently published in our Fall 2013 issue.

The Story Behind “Loneliness”

by Rebecca Rosenblum

I wrote the story “Loneliness” towards the end of 2008 (and revised in 2009), so the backstory of it is a bit distant to me now.

I remember wanting to write about longing, about distance and desire and all the stuff of romantic stories throughout all time, but in a very quotidian setting. I wanted to see if I could do it without flowers and satin sheets and nubile young bodies. The tone is very different, I would say, but I think the longing, the desire, is still there.

What I couldn’t do was a happy ending—or indeed, any real ending at all. The lovers will have to go into tomorrow and see how it works out, and the reader will too. Less fun, but . . . exciting, I think. You never know.

But that, like I say, is the backstory. Honestly, at this point, what is more interesting to me about this story is what happened after it was written and published. It’s a hot-button story: people react to it strongly, for good or ill. A number of reviewers and readers called it one of the best stories in the collection (The Big Dream ); almost an equal number called it the worst. People found the voice erotic or annoying, the characters relatable or cliché, the story fascinating or boring.

The best part about this story is that it’s my husband’s favourite in the collection. I finished it after we started to date, but I don’t think he read it until more than two years later, when the book was published. A year after that, we were married.

Like most writers would (my husband is the novelist Mark Sampson), we worked really hard on our vows and practiced them together. The speeches, on the other hand, were something I perceived to be simple thank yous for the guests, and we didn’t share them. My husband’s speech, in addition to the various thanks, included a epithalamium he wrote for me based on this story—blending his words and mine. It was a beautiful speech and is a beautiful poem, which I have framed beside me as I type this.

The story isn’t based on Mark and me, or on anybody real—though of course we’re curious to see how tomorrow works out too.

Rebecca Rosenblum is a writer and editor living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Rebecca’s short fiction has been short-listed for the Journey Prize, the National Magazine Award, and the Danuta Gleed Award, longlisted for the Relit Award, and she was herself a juror for the Journey Prize 21. Her work has been seen in Exile Quarterly, The Windsor Review’s Best under 35 Issue, The New Quarterly, Journey Prize Stories 19, Maisonnueve, Coming Attractions, and Best Canadian Stories. Her first collection of stories, Once, won the Metcalf-Rooke Award and was one of Quill and Quire’s 15 Books That Mattered in 2008. The Maclean’s blog called Rebecca “Canlit Rookie of the Year” in 2008. Her second collection, The Big Dream, was published by Biblioasis in September 2011. 

Photo by Dave Kemp

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