Yet another forgotten short story question
June 9, 2017 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Help me remember this short story about a woman who...kills people by dating them? I think.

Here are the details I think I remember: there's a single woman who lives in New York City, and she's always throwing parties. I think the parties sometimes get a bit out of hand, with people getting very drunk and saying awful things to one another and so forth. It eventually develops that whenever this woman starts dating someone, the person winds up dying in some sort of odd way, although it's never suggested that she's murdering them. Her presence in someone's life is just a bad omen.

I think there's one man she dates for a while, maybe the narrator of the story, and they break up and go their separate ways. Eventually things go very wrong for him (losing his job, losing most of his money, getting divorced, etc.) Soon afterwards, she shows up at his apartment and the idea is clearly that it's a harbinger of his imminent death, although I don't think he actually dies by the end of the story.

I read this story some time ago -- probably around 30 years, in the mid-80s or thereabouts. I don't remember whether the story was new or old at that time, though.

Sorry this is all a bit vague. Does it ring any bells for anyone? Thanks!
posted by holborne to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"All the Birds Come Home to Roost" by Harlan Ellison?
posted by minervous at 12:41 PM on June 9, 2017

I think OP may be conflating "All the Birds..." with another Ellison short. "All the Birds..." had the narrator realizing his toxic ex was rapidly approaching and that he was powerless to resist her charms again; the unlucky in love woman is less clear to me but sounds very much like something from Strange Wine or another 70s collection.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:07 PM on June 9, 2017

Could it be "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes" by Fritz Leiber?
posted by DougieGee at 5:17 PM on June 9, 2017

I know "All the Birds Come Home to Roost" and it definitely isn't that. This story very specifically took place in NYC. And thinking of it a bit more, I vaguely remember that that black widow-y woman was named Jane, although that's only a very vague recollection.

Sorry, it's not the Leiber either. I don't recall it's being by a science fiction writer or even having a very science fiction-y feel about it.
posted by holborne at 7:27 PM on June 9, 2017

The story is "Torch Song" by John Cheever and you were close about the name. It's Joan. It's a great story and one that has always stuck in my mind, despite having read it probably 20 years ago.
posted by MissPitts at 8:48 PM on June 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Actually kind of sounds like the movie LIQUID SKY, except what's really killing them there is not the woman but an energy-sucking alien living on the roof of her apartment building.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:34 AM on June 10, 2017

Great to know, MissPitts. Thanks. I'm a big Cheever fan so I'm a bit embarrassed that I wasn't able to identify this one. I'll have to revisit my Library of America Cheever short-story collection. Speaking of Cheever, if anyone's interested in hearing the great Olivia Laing talk about his classic, "The Swimmer," here's a little audio piece I produced:
posted by DougieGee at 6:17 AM on June 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

That's it, MissPitts! The second I read the first paragraph, I knew you had it. (Good thing, too, because I can't seem to get the New Yorker archive to advance beyond page one of the story.) Thank you!
posted by holborne at 7:18 AM on June 10, 2017

« Older home sweet home vs. greener pastures   |   Where should my girl gang eat in Sante Fe? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.