Jennifer Egan, “Black Box,” from The New Yorker
The story is written in terse dispatches of 140 characters or less, which will be tweeted, through The New Yorker Fiction Department’s Twitter handle, @NYerFiction, in ten nightly installments between 8 and 9 P.M. E.T.
Technology has afforded ordinary people
a chance to glow in the cosmos of human
Your lack of espionage and language
training is what makes your record clean
You are an ordinary person undertaking an
You need not be remarkable for your
credentials or skill sets, only for your
bravery and equilibrium.
Knowing that you are one of hundreds
shouldn’t feel belittling.
In the new heroism, the goal is to merge
with something larger than yourself.
In the new heroism, the goal is to throw off
generations of self-involvement.
In the new heroism, the goal is to renounce
the American fixation with being seen and
In the new heroism, the goal is to dig
beneath your shiny persona.
You’ll be surprised by what lies under it: a
rich, deep crawl space of possibilities.
Some liken this discovery to a dream in
which a familiar home acquires new wings
The power of individual magnetism is
nothing against the power of combined
You may accomplish astonishing personal
feats, but citizen agents rarely seek
They liken the need for personal glory to
cigarette addiction: a habit that feels
life-sustaining even as it kills you.
Childish attention-seeking is usually
satisfied at the expense of real power.
An enemy of the state could not have
connived a better way to declaw and
Now our notorious narcissism is our
The presence of another person can be
sensed, even when not directly perceived.
The discovery of another person at close
range, when you thought you were alone,
may occasion fear.
Leaping from a supine into a standing
posture will induce a head rush.
“I see you. Come out” must be uttered
calmly, from the Readiness Position.
If you show fear, make sure that it isn’t the
fear you actually feel.
When you’ve expected a man, the
appearance of a woman may be shocking.
Despite all that you know and are, you may
experience that shock as a relief.
“Why are you here?,” uttered by your new
host’s alpha beauty, is likely hostile.
Respond to abstract questions on the
most literal level: “He left without me.”
“Bastard,” muttered bitterly, suggests
familiarity with the phenomenon of being
Sympathy from an unexpected source can
prompt a swell of emotion.
Measure the potential liability of shedding
tears before you let them fall.
The perfumed arm of a beauty may pour
strength and hope directly into your skin.
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