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Big Turnpike

Some people rail against Big Tobacco. Some people hate Big Pharma, or even Big Soda. I have a cousin whose enemy is Big Umbrella. So, I say this with a slight amount of humor (as with most of my writing) but in this case an extra amount of seriousness...
My enemy is Big Turnpike. The Pennsylvania Turnpike, specifically -- in conjunction with EZ Pass -- is a racket set up to get their hands on your bank account and essentially put a monitoring device in your car. This all might sound a bit alarmist, but I don't care. This isn't necessarily the hill I want to die on, but I plan to fight as long as I can. 
What's my problem? Basically, Big Turnpike -- at least in PA -- is using financially coercive and unfair tactics to force people to use EZ Pass. 
The facts: COVID caused Pennsylvania to eliminate all in-person toll collectors 18 months before they were going to do it anyway; all toll collection is now done by EZ Pass or "toll-by-plate" in which they send you a bill in…
Recent posts

New Yorker Fiction Review #256: "Rainbows," by Joseph O'Neill

Review of the short story from the Oct. 5, 2020 issue of The New Yorker... This is the third short story I've read and reviewed from Joseph O'Neill in the pages of The New Yorker since I started this project back in 2013. His short story "The Referees" from the Sept. 1, 2014 issue and his "Pardon Edward Snowden" from the Dec. 12, 2016 issue both failed to impress me and even seem to have been so bad they pissed me off. Not so with "Rainbows," a short story about an Irish immigrant to the U.S. (modern day) who lives in Manhattan. What is this story "about"? It's hard to say, specifically. On one level, it is about a young woman who comes to the U.S. who takes to a (purely platonic) liking to one of her hip college professors, also a woman, who advises her to just "get over" an incident that sounds like a sexual assault, and then years later has to go through a somewhat similar experience with her own daughter. One could also …

New Yorker Fiction Review #255: "Face Time" by Lorrie Moore

Review of the short story from the Sept. 28, 2020 issue of The New Yorker...For as familiar as the name Lorrie Moore is to me, and as many short stories as she's had published -- and published in The New Yorker -- I've never reviewed her on this blog and I had trouble calling to mind a single piece of fiction she's written. My point is to say that, although Lorrie Moore's name is definitely out there in the ether of the literature world (I'm sure I read some of her stuff in grad school), I'm not a particularly big enthusiast of her work.I don't think it's unfair to put her in the same category as Alice Munro, they are both writers of realist fiction that attempts to deal with the actual, micro-level tragedies of regular lives -- the death of a loved one, divorce, sickness, abandonment, aging -- on a mostly light-hearted and even, at times, sardonic level. When I say "realist" it's because most of the characters, settings, and situations, a…

New Yorker Fiction Review #254: "Switzerland" by Nicole Krauss

Review of the short story from the Sept. 21, 2020 issue of The New Yorker...If there's one thing I've learned over the past six years of reading and reviewing the short fiction in The New Yorker, it's that the modern literary scene can produce new writers and new books far faster than I'll ever be able to keep up with them. Hell, most of the time I can't even read and review a short story a week let alone get my arms around every literary heavy hitter out there writing books in the English language. The best I can do is, well, what I do: just read whatever comes across my transom and be open to recommendations and hope that covers it. What I'm saying, more specifically, is that I'd never heard of Nicole Krauss before reading this dark tale of adolescence and sexual awakening. How? I'm not really sure. She's written four books. Her list of short story publications is basically a list of the most prominent literary magazines in the country. And she wa…

Should You Fish With a Guide?

The answer is most definitely, Yes (if you can afford it). Two Saturdays ago my sister was visiting from town and wanted to go trout fishing. At her suggestion, we hired guides from TCO Fly Shop in State College, Pa. for a morning of fishing on a nearby creek. I was against the idea, at first. Guides usually do not come cheap and also, armed with the internet and my own personal stubbornness, I usually just strike out on my own and do okay...or kill an entire day flogging the water and not catching anything. To me it's all part of the experience of being a fly-fisherman. However, my sister did not have much time and wanted: a.) to learn something, and b.) to actually catch some fish. In such a case, it is almost always preferable to get a guide if you can. As it turned out, we were -- quite appropriately -- fishing on International Women's Fly Fishing Day, though none of us knew it at the time. My sister learned a lot and hooked a few fish. I caught the lunker pictured above. B…

New Yorker Fiction Review #253: "The Englishman" by Douglas Stuart

Review of a short story from the Sept. 14, 2020 issue of The New Yorker... This is Douglas Stuart's second story in The New Yorker this year -- second of all time, I think -- following on his story called "Found Wanting" from the Jan. 13, 2020 issue. Since that story was published pre-COVID and before I went through my renewed New Yorker obsession and finally got caught up again on reviewing the stories as they come out each week, I did not read "Found Wanting." However, based on some literary triangulation -- i.e. reading this current effort,"The Englishman,"and a quick reading of a couple of Douglas Stuart's interviews -- one can get a pretty decent idea what Douglas Stuart is all about and what material he's working with. Essentially, it seems he is exploring what it means (or what it meant) to grow up gay in rural Scotland in the 80s and 90s. Throw in some poverty, family dysfunction, and drug abuse, and you've got his 2020 novel Shuggi…

New Yorker Fiction Review #252: "Flashlight," by Susan Choi

Review of a short story from the Sept. 7, 2020 issue of The New Yorker... I'm not familiar with the work of American novelist Susan Choi, but I feel like I should be. Her name sounds familiar, her writing style seems familiar, and her face even seems familiar. It appears, however, as though I've never reviewed any of her fiction on this blog (this may be her first short story ever to appear in The New Yorker) and a quick glance at her list of published books reveals I've not read any of them. Oh well... What we have here is an emotionally gripping story that starts slow but -- much like the undertow which (***spoiler alert***) takes the life of the main character's father -- eventually sucks you in. The story is told in close third person, through the perspective of Louisa, a 10-year old girl whose father has been killed in an accident. Not only was the father killed in an accident, but Louisa was there when it happened and must cope with the aftermath. In that afterma…