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Saying Goodbye to Diego Maradona

"He was overwhelmed by the weight of his own personality. Ever since that day when fans first chanted his name, his spinal column caused him grief. Maradona carried a burden named Maradona that bent his back out of shape. The body as a metaphor: his legs ached, he couldn't sleep without pills. It did not take him long to realize it was impossible to live with responsibility of being a god on the field, bur from the begining he knew that stopping was out of the question. 'I need them to need me,' he confessed after many years of living under the tyrannical halo of superhuman performance, swollen with corstisone and analgesics and praise, harassed by the demands of his devotees and by the hatred of those he offended....The pleasure of demolishing idols is directly proportional to the need to erect them." -from Soccer in Sun and Shadow , by Eduardo Galeano Given my affinity for soccer, and Argentina, and the man himself...I would be remiss if I did not take a moment
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New Yorker Fiction Review #259: "Nettle" by Joy Williams

Review of the short story from the Oct. 26, 2020 issue of The New Yorker... American fiction writer Joy Williams is an author whose writing has wormed its way into my favor slowly, over the course of the past seven years, much like one of her often-inscrutable stories bores its way from the realm of the apparent and literal, into the realm of the unconscious, and then back (if you're lucky). Her short story "Chaunt" from the Dec. 10, 2018 issue was eerie and unsettling on a much more surface way than this current effort, "Nettle," but still there is that underlying vibration of the super-natural, of a narrative being pieced together on some level beyond the normal, waking, 3-D world. "Nettle" feels a bit like the film Inception , and makes the reader ask the same kinds of questions: "What is real? Is this a dream? Is this a dream within a dream?" It plays with reality in way that, frankly, is not even apparent at the end.  The story, if we ar

Sno-Seal: The sacred ritual of winterizing your leather boots

Why is winterizing your leather boots a sacred ritual? Because it must be done properly, regularly, and the proper treatment to use on your leather boots and shoes is called Sno-Seal. Full stop.  Every winter I apply a good coat (actually about five coats) of Sno-Seal to my L.L. Bean boots and any other leather boots or shoes I'll be wearing in the wet conditions that are to ensue for the next 4-5 months. I even Sno-Seal certain pairs of my boat shoes, as long as the finish of the leather will absorb it. To give you an idea how well Sno-Seal works... recently I had to wade in my Bean boots (fully submerged in water, for a long time) and because I had properly sealed the leather, the submersion in water had almost no affect on the leather.  The recommended (actually, the only ) method to apply Sno-Seal is the "oven" follows: 1.) Make sure the boots are clean and dry. There must be no dirt, films, or other polishes on the boots and they must be completely dry i

New Yorker Fiction Review #258: "Life Without Children" by Roddy Doyle

  Review of the short story from the Oct. 19, 2020 issue of The New Yorker... This short story is just a fun, light snack from Roddy Doyle, an author whose long-form fiction I've never read but whose short fiction I've come to enjoy over the past five or six years I've been doing this. Roddy Doyle writes, mostly, about the domestic life -- families, parents, children, dogs, etc -- and the tensions wrought by people who live together and love each other, over many many years. He usually does so in a fairly light-hearted way (I have never read a Roddy Doyle tragedy story, I don't think), and thus his stuff is fun and easy to read. In other words, he's just a good writer who has found his material.  The actual meat of this story is one night in the life of "Alan" a man entering late-middle age, who goes out one night on a work trip, during the early days of COVID, and fantasizes a life in which he is not the father of a few 20-something kids, does not have a

New Yorker Fiction Review #257: "Suffocation Theory" by David Rabe

  Review of the short story from the Oct. 12, 2020 issue of The New Yorker... The level of modern-day anxiety, environmental panic, looming violence, and social dis-ease in this story, and the immediacy of the writing, made me think this was the product of a 20-something writer imagining a world she was going to have to inhabit in the very near future. This did not strike me as the work of a writer nearly 80 years old (which it is) drawing a nightmarish picture of a world he will very likely not have to inhabit, as it seems about 20 years away or so (we hope), assuming it ever gets this bad and it may already be for some people. The reality depicted in "Suffocation Theory" is not hard to imagine, just turn up the volume on some of the problems we have today -- fast-moving environmental degradation, a reckless, egomaniacal president, climate-induced migration, gun violence, economic disruption -- from level three to about level eight (hopefully not to 11...). Does this kind of

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

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 als