Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from November, 2013

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Find the Bad Guy" by Jeffrey Eugenides

Each week I review the short fiction from a recent issue of The New Yorker...because the Supreme Leader told me it would aid my understanding of earthling culture. 

Issue: Nov. 18, 2013
Story: "Find the Bad Guy"
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Plot: A middle aged man, Charlie, creeps on his recently estranged wife and his family as he recounts his struggles with alcoholism and the dissolution and ultimate failure of his marriage. He eventually confronts his family, breaking the TRO his wife has placed on him and comes close to some kind of reconciliation, but fails. 
Review: Reading and reviewing the short fiction in The New Yorker every week is a chore sometimes. Other times it opens literary doors by exposing me to new authors I was long (long) overdue to read on my own. This week falls into the latter category. Jeffrey Eugenides, where have you been all my life!
There's a lot to like in this story:
1.) Humor - This story's funny as hell while dealing with a really sad and he…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Benji" by Chinelo Okparanta

Each week I review the short fiction from a recent issue of The New Yorker...hey, it keeps me off the streets.
Issue: Nov. 11, 2013
Story: "Benji"
Author: Chinelo Okparanta
Plot: A middle-aged Nigerian woman, Alare, begins a protracted affair with her rich friend's homely, hidebound son, Benji, in order to slowly bilk him of money, under the pretense that she needs the money because her husband is dying. Benji's mother dies. Alare succeeds in taking so much money from Benji that she sets up a new and comfortable life for herself and her husband, who is actually the gardener at Benji's estate. Benji discovers this and feels nothing about it. 
Review: In my ongoing quest to read and review every short story that appears in The New Yorker, I've noticed that a lot of boring international fiction manages to sneak in. Here we have a prime example of this phenomenon.
This story gets away with being boring and lacking an emotional payoff, simply because it's set in Ni…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Weight Watchers" by Thomas McGuane

Each week I review the short fiction from a recent issue of The New Yorker...in the hopes that it balances out my otherwise neanderthal tastes. 

Issue: Nov. 4, 2013

Story: "Weight Watchers"

Author: Thomas McGuane

Plot: A young-to-early-middled aged man's overweight father comes to stay with him while he's on a break from his mother, who has insisted the father lose weight or not come home. The visit causes the young man to re-examine his parent's occasionally-functional marriage and the ways his parents forced him to take on a lot of their emotional baggage. The young man describes his father as a ruddy, man's man type and his mother as solidly bourgeois and though they gave him a comfortable enough life, he is determined to stay single and never get emotionally involved with anyone.

Review: Kind of an odd turn for Thomas McGuane, although the story is still set in Montana and features a character who is outcast or broken in a comical way. The main character is so…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Samsa in Love" by Haruki Murakami

I'm on a marathon quest to get caught up on my New Yorker reviewing. I will not rest until I succeed. At this point, the quest is bigger than me, it's bigger than TheNew Yorker, hell it's bigger than Nicki Minaj's ass...no, not really. 
Issue: Oct. 28, 2013
Story: "Samsa in Love"
Author: Haruki Murakami
Plot: Anyone who took Eighth Grade English (and payed attention) will likely recognize the name "Samsa" in the title here; it comes from the famous Franz Kafka story "Metamorphosis" in which the main character, Gregor Samsa, wakes up one morning to find he's turned into a beetle. Here, Murakami reverses that classic, archetypal short story so that the beetle wakes up and finds that he's become a human named Gregor Samsa. What? Who?! That's right. He spends part of a day getting used to his new body, trying to find food in the house and clothe himself. He is then visited by a female locksmith who reveals that they are in the middle o…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by Alice Munro

I usually review one New Yorker short story per week but I've had to speed up due to the fact I've fallen way behind. That damn New Yorker just keeps coming...every...damn...week....

Issue: Oct. 21, 2013 (first appeared in the Dec. 27, 1999 issue)
Story: The Bear Came Over the Mountain
Author: Alice Munro
Plot: Tells the story of Fiona and Grant, a Canadian couple now in their late 60s/early 70s, and their struggles to stay together through Fiona's contraction of Alzheimer's disease. The story shows how Fiona's loss of memory brings out some of the dysfunction in their relationship and some of Fiona's lingering, deeply repressed resentment at Grant's infidelities over the years (Grant was a professor during the free-love, anything goes days of the late 60s & 70s). Ultimately, through her hospitalization, Fiona forgets she and Grant were married and begins to devote herself to another patient in the care home, Aubrey (male). Grant attempts to forge a relatio…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Katania" by Lara Vapnyar

Part III in my "Review-a-Day" Series as I attempt to get caught up on my New Yorker short fiction reviewing. I'm sticking to my work...

Issue: Oct. 14, 2013

Story: Katania

Author: Lara Vapnyar

Plot: A young girl, Katya, in late-stage Soviet Russia befriends another young girl, Tania. Together they fantasize, create imaginary universes, get into fights with each other, and do all the things kids do together. One particular point of friction between the girls is their mutual fatherlessness -- Katya's father died when she was young, Tania's father defected to America -- and their only fights surround this issue. Together they create an imaginary land called Katania. Tania eventually goes to another town to live, and they spend their adolescence and high school years apart. They reunite many years later, and Katya finds that Tania has become materialistic and voraciously bourgeois; indeed, she has built a life -- a world -- around her, strikingly similar to Katania.

Revie…

From the Netflix Vault: Dressed to Kill (1980)

Film: Dressed to Kill

Release Date: 1980
Starring: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen
Thank god for Netflix. I mean, really. When else in history has man been able -- for a mere $8 per MONTH -- to access a seemingly limitless catalog of motion picture entertainment (TV, movies, past =a and present) some of it good, some of it crappo, at the touch of a button? I say never. If it weren't for Netflix, I'd probably never have discovered lost gems like Dressed to Kill. 
Perhaps I use the word "gem" too easily. There are perfectly good reasons why this film has been forgotten in the mists of time and relegated to a spot deep within the Netflix vault; the equivalent of the dusty center aisles of the video store. But we'll get to that later. For now, let's focus on the positives.
Reasons to Watch:
1.) Dennis Franz playing a cocky, street-wise cop. Thirteen years before the role of his life as Sipowicz on NYPD Blue, Franz turns in a pitch-perfect performance as …

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "I'm the Meat You're the Knife" by Paul Theroux

Due to the fact that I'm way behind on my New Yorker fiction reviwing, this week I'm doing a special "Review-a-Day" series until I get caught up. Today's review comes from...

Issue: Oct. 7, 2013

Story: "I'm the Meat You're the Knife"

Author: Paul Theroux

Plot: A middle-aged writer, Jay Justus, comes back to his home town for his father's funeral,only to find his high school English teacher, Murray Cutler, is also terminally ill and days from death. Jay goes to visit the dying Cutler and we begin to see that there lies more beneath this relationship than meets the eye. It is apparent, though never explicitly stated, that Cutler used his position of authority to have an inappropriate relationship with Jay. Now a grown man, Jay visits the dying Cutler and tells him a series of suggestive stories until the dying man realizes who Jay is. Jay realizes he became a writer in order to escape the pain of having been taken advantage of by Cutler.

Review: I&…

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

Each week I review the short fiction from a recent issue of The New Yorker; and weeks it reviews me...

Issue: Sept. 30, 2013

Story: The Breeze

Author:Joshua Ferris

Plot: A young Brooklyn couple try to capitalize on the perfect spring evening in New York, only to find themselves thwarted by the numerous daunting choices before them.

Review: An absolute "must-read." This is the kind of story that makes my self-appointed job as the New Yorker fiction section's vigilant guardian worthwhile. I read the fiction each week in the hopes of discovering just such a story.

What's so great about it? Through Ferris' lens, we see one simple evening refracted into a dozen different rays, a dozen different possibilities. The author manages to tell the story of this one evening in numerous different ways, exploring all the different ways this one evening could have played out -- pleasant and not so -- had this young Brooklyn couple made various choices differently.

What if they got ou…