Here’s the first paragraph of Teju Cole’s new short story “Farewell Tour” —
Frank Low told me this one Friday night in Times Square. He said he’d been transfixed by “Lavoisier and His Wife” at the Metropolitan Museum that past Wednesday afternoon, and in telling me about it, he had the hesitant manner of someone trying to remember the precise wording of a poem. When his words came, they came complete. He had read the wall label next to the painting and noted that 222 years had passed since it was made. The text read: “Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794) and His Wife (Marie-Anne-Pierrette Paulze, 1758-1836)”. The picture was, historically speaking, an intake of breath, a preparation for what was to come. Within a year after David painted it the Bastille was stormed. When it came to revolutions Low himself would rather there were none. He preferred order, lived as he liked, in a world of well-kept invoices and precise appointments, a world in which he never spent beyond his means. The Jean-Georges dinner on Tuesday night had been an unusual extravagance that he hadn’t mentioned to his wife. She might have thought it odd, rightly so, given that he hadn’t worked in three months.