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Showing posts from May, 2013

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "The Dark Arts" by Ben Marcus

Each week I review the short fiction in a recent issue of The New Yorker. I learned it from watching you, Dad! I learned it from watching you.

Issue: May 20, 2013

Story: The Dark Arts

Author: Ben Marcus

Plot: A young man, Julian, with a chronic autoimmune disease spends a short period of time in Dusseldorf, Germany. It is the final leg of a medical tourism trip throughout western Europe with his girlfriend, Hayley. He  and Hayley have had a fight at some point prior, and he has come to Dusseldorf alone. He waits for her while he goes to a clinic every day for his treatments. Finally, she shows up.

Review: This is a difficult story to unpack. It takes place almost completely in Julian's mind, as he interprets everything about his life -- his illness, his surroundings, his memories, his conversations with this father, his relationship with Hayley, even his very existence -- through the lens of his depression. And Julian's is truly a manifold and dizzyingly hopeless depression. Marcus…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Art Appreciation" by Fiona McFarlane

Each week I review the short fiction in the latest issue of The New Yorker. My doctor said it would clear up my seasonal allergies but no such luck...

Issue: May 13, 2013

Story: "Art Appreciation"

Author: Fiona McFarlane

Plot: Set in Sydney, Australia in the early 1960s, this is the story of how a young man's life changes after his mother wins 10,000 pounds (roughly $250,000 in present day U.S. dollars) in the lottery. The young man, Henry, almost immediately stops seeing his casual, weekend lover, Kath, and instead begins seeing a young woman named Ellie from his office. He assumes Ellie to be "better" than Kath, but doesn't have as much fun with Ellie. In spite of this, he eventually proceeds to ask Ellie to marry him. She accepts. At the end, Henry ends up sort of accidentally going to the racetrack with Kath and realizing, much too late, that Kath is exciting and interesting in a much more appealing in a way that Ellie will ever be. Sadly, he realizes Kath …

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "The Gray Goose" by Jonathan Lethem

Each week I review the short fiction in the latest issue of The New Yorker. And they never seem to notice...
Issue: May 6th, 2013
Story: "The Gray Goose"
Author: Jonathan Lethem
Plot: First of all, if you're into contemporary American fiction and you don't know Jonathan Lethem...you better ask somebody. Quick. This is one of the giants of American letters right now and needs no further introduction from me than that, I think. 
Second, you need to know this is a chapter of Lethem's upcoming novel Dissident Gardens. The novel follows the lives of a young Jewish Communist and her daughter, from the 1930s through present day. The novel is set in New York, and so is the short story. In "Gray Goose," the daughter, Miriam, makes one of her first forays into "adult" culture and the world of sex, on a night in 1958. She goes to a Greenwich Village nightclub and finds a number of men vying for her attention. She discovers she has some power over them. Takes…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "The Fragments" by Joshua Ferris

Each week I review the short fiction from the latest issue of The New Yorker. It's a clean job and totally unnecessary...

Issue: April 29, 2013

Story: The Fragments

Author:Joshua Ferris

Plot: A man living in New York City picks up a butt-dial phone call from his wife only to learn, through fragments (FRAGMENTS) of the conversation, that she is having an affair. Or at least, that's what he interprets from the bits of the conversation that he hears. He walks around in a daze, listening to fragments of other people's conversations, none of which seem particularly instructive to his situation. He goes a bit crazy, telling people on the street that his wife's cheating on him, though he doesn't actually confront her about it. She is a workaholic lawyer and is rarely home. He starts giving away her possessions to passerby.

Review: After weeks of reading pretty straight-forward narrative type stories, I definitely appreciated this conceptual change of pace. I've actually at…