Sunday 19 May 2024

My Jockey by Lucia Berlin

Secretariat, at the Kentucky Derby circa 1973.

I have mentioned Lucia Berlin's talent for minimalism before in other reviews, but "My Jockey" really took me by surprise as to how concise and quick it reads. The story's brevity, driven by lightning-fast prose, ensures that it concludes almost before the reader can fully immerse themselves in its eccentric premise: a nurse is assigned by hospital management to solely attend injured jockeys in the ER because she speaks Spanish and most of them are Mexican. Racial stereotypes aside, this brief snapshot of her first interaction with a jockey is quite comical and even poignant: "Munoz lay there, unconscious, a miniature Aztec God." Despite the unusual situation, she makes the best of it and even forms an emotional attachment to him. There is this very funny and tender moment where she is carrying him in her arms down the hospital hallway for surgery and is described as King Kong. Lucia Berlin's blend of absurdity, situational humor, and irony, offers a refreshing peak into the absurdity found within the medical profession.

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