Each month, Deborah Treisman, fiction editor of The New Yorker, hosts a podcast in which a New Yorker writer chooses a short story from the magazine to read and discuss. Hearing these master writers talk about stories that inspired them is insightful and instructive. Recently, I heard Lorrie Moore read and discuss Julie Hayden’s short story, “Day-Old Baby Rats.” I had never heard of Julie Hayden, but I was impressed by the story, which follows a young woman through a day in the city. Hayden’s detail is spectacularly clear and random, and the language, at times, reads like poetry. There’s humor, too, and it’s not hard to see why this story impressed a young Lorrie Moore, who would go on to champion witty poetic narratives not so different from Hayden’s story.
Hayden worked for The New Yorker in the seventies. She published a number of stories in the magazine and a book of short fiction. Tragically, her life spiraled out of control and she died young. As Treisman notes, the protagonist of “Day-Old Baby Rats” exhibits the same phobias and addictions that would later contribute to Hayden’s sad end.