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Showing posts from January, 2014

Four New Yorker Fiction Reviews

As always, I'm way behind on my New Yorker Fiction reviewing. So, I'm determined to remedy that right now with an unprecedented FOUR reviews in one shot. They will be short. They will be highly opinionated. They will be sorely lacking in any kind of supporting evidence from the text. But where else are you going to find reviews of the short fiction in the New Yorker? Okay, probably there are some other places you could do that. But...but...but...

Here are the reviews, in reverse chronological order:

Issue:  Jan. 27, 2014

Story: "The Frog Prince," by Robert Coover

Review: This is the kind of short story I like: short. Especially when I'm way behind on my New Yorkers and really need to get caught up. Times like NOW.

Anyway, this is a fun little riff on the whole Frog Prince fairy tale, in which a princess kisses a frog and he becomes a prince. Experimental fiction writer Robert Coover turns the fairy tale on its head by putting forth the idea that the resulting "…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "The Christmas Miracle" by Rebecca Curtis

This week's story, "The Christmas Miracle," by Rebecca Curtis, comes from the Dec. 23 & 30th issue. In it, a chronically-ill woman goes to stay with her dysfunctional (but hey, whose isn't?) family on the outskirts of Revelstoke, BC, as small town in the Canadian Rockies. Between taking her I.V. drips, having bacteria-induced hallucinations, keeping her creepy, pedophile uncle away from her pre-teenage nieces, keeping the house cats from being eaten by the coyotes lurking at the edge of the home's lawn, and embarrassing her sister's house guests with her filter-less observations, the main character manages to see things about her own life a little more clearly.

With a name like "The Christmas Miracle," I was tempted to keep my puke bucket next to the bed while I read this. However, in this year of our Lord 2014, I supposed I had to know that no magazine would be so daring, anachronistic, or just plain stupid as to publish a genuinely schmaltzy Ch…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Coming Soon" by Steven Millhauser

Story: "Coming Soon"

Author: Steven Millhauser
Issue: Dec. 16, 2013
My faithful readers (if there exist any of you out there) will remember Steven Millhauser's last NYer story, "Thirteen Wives," which I reviewed in the 6/8/13 entry on this blog. What's that? You don't remember??? Ah, well...
Anyway, I gushed over that story because of it's experimental style in which Millhauser painted mini portraits of thirteen imaginary wives, each of which represented a different facet of his relationship with one real woman: his wife. 
I throw around the term "magical realism" a bit too much. Mostly because I don't know what other term to use for a story like this. However, this story (and "Thirteen Wives") are not magical realist in the great Latino Literature sense of the word, but they sure as hell aren't straight up realism. Millhauser paints reality in his own colors, bends and compresses time, and creates a world with his own laws…

Dryanuary: Week One

So I've made it one full week without a sip of alcohol. I'd like to also point out that I haven't driven my car in a week either. Clean & Green. That's my new motto for this year. Except I don't exactly hold with the implication that simply not drinking alcohol makes me "clean," because that implies drinking alcohol makes me "dirty." But...good rhyming mottoes are hard to come by, so I'm going with it.

I'm a bit surprised at how easy it's been to go a week without a drink. Pleasantly surprised. Leading me to believe that my thirst for the spirit of the vine (and grain) is all based on habit and situation. Habit, in that I've just gotten into the habit of keeping booze around the house, having a drink whenever I feel like it (I'm and adult, after all), situational in that most of the people I know like to drink, so alcohol often (hell, ALWAYS) accompanies social get togethers. All that being the case, maybe I can start dri…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "The Late Novels of Gene Hackman" by Rivka Galchen

Today's story comes from the Dec. 9th issue. "The Late Novels of Gene Hackman," by Rivka Galchen, explores J's relationship with her aging stepmother Q as they travel to a writers' conference in Key West.

Essentially, through their experiences together, the people they meet, J comes to have a more complex view on her stepmother and on aging in general. Kind of the "Gee whiz, maybe old people aren't as doughty and guileless as I thought" kind of thing.

This story's really great if you like reading about aging stepmothers and about senior citizens standing around talking at cocktail parties. But if you're, gee, EVERYONE ELSE IN THE GALAXY then you might not want to operate heavy machinery after reading this one.

Total snooze fest.

Oh, and I'm sure the more erudite among you will sound a hue and cry, saying "Wait, wait...you don't GET it! This story is referencing The Late Novels of Eudora WELTY (or whatever) and, and, and..."…

Dryanuary: Days Three & Four

As a way to atone for my holiday sins and cleanse my poisoned body, I've determined to abstain from alcoholic beverages for the entire month of January. Apparently a lot of people do this and it's called "dryanuary." This is my story...

Day Three

Now we're getting into the real meat of this experiment. Days One and Two were a cake walk; it was more about preventing myself from just reaching for a beer or a glass of wine out of sheer habit than actually trying to stymie any desires. Day Three, Friday, was a little different.

Out at dinner the waitress rattled off the tap list, a nice line-up of microbrew taps for $4, and then hit me with the real left hook: Three Floyd's Zombie Dust on tap for $5. By the way my eyes lit up she almost immediately put me down for a pint.

"What, you're not getting one? But it's Zombie Dust. For $5 a glass..."

Some of you, like my esteemed "Everything Geek" Andrew Soliday might turn up your noses and say,…

Dryanuary: Day Two

As a way to atone for my holiday sins, I've decided to abstain from alcohol for the entire month of January. I've been told this has become a "thing" and that it's called "Dryanuary." And I thought I was being so original...

Day Two

Pretty much the same as Day One. No major urges that I couldn't control. Though I did cook up a nice pork roast that would've gone perfectly with this bottle of white wine I got from some friends over Christmas.

I only realize how much alcohol has become a part of my life when I try little experiments like these. To a Frenchman or an Italian, the idea of eating a nice meal without wine would be as crass and uncivilized as eating stadium nachos without nacho cheese. But I'm not French or Italian (not really Italian, anyway). I'm American, which means I'm hell-bent on self-improvement. Even if it means denying myself something which, in moderation, would increase the quality of my life, only to cause myself …

Dryanuary: A Daily Diary

As a way to atone for my holiday sins, I've decided to abstain from alcoholic beverages for the entire month of January. I've been told this is now a "thing" and is referred to as Dryanuary. 
Day One:
First of all, I'd like to point out that I was doing this "Dryanuary" thing long before the internet made it possible (indeed necessary) for everyone to put everything into the permanent record, thereby proving once and for all that there is no such thing as an original thought. Only I usually did it in February, and it never lasted very long. But...that was back in my mid 20s, when I had the self-control of a wild boar on meth. I'm anticipating this attempt will go a lot better.
As for Day One.. Please. One day without alcohol? I like my booze as much as anybody, but...if I couldn't do one day without a drink I'd be a little worried. Okay, so I was slightly tempted to have a beer around dinner time, but I didn't. If I poisoned this endeavor…