‘The Largesse of the Sea Maiden,’ by Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson:

But looking at art for an hour or so always changes the way I see things afterward—this day, for instance, a group of mentally handicapped adults on a tour of the place, with their twisted, hovering hands and cocked heads, moving among the works like cheap cinema zombies, but good zombies, zombies with minds and souls and things to keep them interested. And outside, where they normally have a lot of large metal sculptures—the grounds were being dug up and reconstructed—a dragline shovel nosing the rubble monstrously, and a woman and a child watching, motionless, the little boy standing on a bench with his smile and sideways eyes and his mother beside him, holding his hand, both so still, like a photograph of American ruin.

This story is from the March 3, 2014 issue of The New Yorker, and I’m re-reading it for the third time because I’m still in awe of how wonderful it is. If you haven’t read it yet, now’s the time. (Paywall—down!) And if you already have, it gets better with age.