Susan Choi is the author of four novels. Her first novel, The Foreign Student, won the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction. Her second novel, American Woman, was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize. Her third novel, A Person of Interest, was a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award. In 2010 she was named the inaugural recipient of the PEN/W.G. Sebald Award. Her most recent novel, My Education, received a 2014 Lammy Award. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, she teaches fiction writing at Yale and lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, Pete Wells, and their sons.
This is an EXCERPT from Susan Choi's story, Hart Island, which can be read in full in Silent Beaches, Untold Stories: New York City's Forgotten Waterfront.
Kirby and Goss - Theodore Kirby, of course, and Ronald Goss - had built their joint career on their contrasting, complementary styles. Kirby was wild, imaginative to a fault, while Goss was the logician, art's ruthless prosecutor. Their professional partnership had brought each man far more in the way of fame, remuneration, and satisfaction than either would likely have achieved on his own. Their business was thrills and chills, anchored fast in an imagined reality which rendered the supernatural departures all the more terrifying to their legions of faithful readers.
The men were embarking now on a new thriller/chiller, set as always in their home base of New York. One midsummer day they sat down together at Kirby's to choose from a number of possible settings. Hart Island was just one of many - but it had risen to the top of Kirby's list. "Just listen to this history!"
Goss listened as he had all their career. Research was Kirby's first love. Off Kirby would go bushwhacking into the deep thickets of history, dragging this and that into the light, and what treasures he’d found on Hart Island: insane asylums for incurable women, reformatories for incorrigible boys, the New York City potter's field – and more. Hart Island seemed to specialize in disappearances. Boaters set out for its shores and neither they nor their boats were ever heard from again.
“Very dangerous currents near there,” Goss observed.
“These aren’t people capsizing in currents,” Kirby enthused. “This is our own Bermuda Triangle, right offshore of the Bronx! Oh, Ronny, it must be so thoroughly haunted the ghosts can't tell where their own edges are. I can’t believe we’ve never used it before."
They’d make up for that now.