Please explain the plot of this short story, "A Short Story Written with Thought-to-Text Technology" posted by Jesse Eisenberg....

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This story posted by Jesse Eisenberg in The New Yorker is entitled "A Short Story Written with Thought-to-Text Technology." In terms of plot, nothing much happens physically, though the narrator (John, the man who is narrating this story) undergoes plenty of internalization as he works himself into his writing.

John is sitting at a Starbucks and, for a time, his life as he describes it seems pretty good. He likes his job and enjoys his work week better than his weekends; this is a pattern in his life, as he used to do the same thing when he was in school. He is divorced from his wife, Rebecca, but their relationship is amicable. In fact, she graciously let him keep their house, the one her parents paid for. He keeps claiming he is a painter who likes to practice his craft, but he is constantly making Freudian slips and saying he is a writer who enjoys writing.

The story is very short, so John just has time to make his readers believe him when things start to change. As John's internal monologue continues, we learn that he works at a temp agency, hates his job, rather stalks Rebecca  and the new man in her life, feels as if he is being stifled by the house he is living in, got fired from his last job, gets in trouble for pursuing his craft, and is generally just an ineffectual and unproductive guy. He says of himself:

He was a dumb dumb stupid dumb writer—painter!—who couldn’t even afford an office, so he wrote—painted!—in a Starbucks because he got fired from Fleurstein and Kaplowitz for making copies of his stories—paintings!—when he was supposed to be copying legal briefs for those corrupt corporate shylocks.

Throughout the entire monologue, his view of the barista also changes. At first she is a lovely girl, but by the end she is the kind of girl no one would want--and even she would not be interested in him.

Even a stringy-haired barista with a slutty back tattoo would never like me.

The story ends as it begins, with an upbeat John feeling quite satisfied with what he has just written.

Everything seems to be flowing well. It was a little tough getting into it but now it’s really flowing. It’s weird how I do that—how I think I can’t write something and suddenly I’m carried away and then I can’t stop writing. I think I’m too hard on myself. I think I punish myself for no reason. But I think I’m really hitting my stride now. 

This internal monologue, then, is a kind of warm-up exercise for his real writing. He decides to get some tea and then begin to write again.

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