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Showing posts from March, 2014

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "A Sheltered Woman" by Yiyun Li

Issue: March 10, 2014

Story: "A Sheltered Woman"

Author: Yiyun Li

Seems like this is the New Yorker's tri-annual "old Chinese lady" story. While I have absolutely nothing against "old" people (especially because I'm gradually becoming one), or Chinese people, or ladies, stories about old Chinese ladies generally do not raise my pulse. However, I'm glad I maintain the fortitude to push through my lunkheaded-ness in approaching these types of stories, because there is something really, really engaging and instructive to be found here.

The story follows a month in the life of Auntie Mei, a Chinese nanny living in San Francisco, where she cares for the infant children of well-off Chinese immigrants for the first months of their lives. She also cares for the new mothers just as much, schooling them in the ways of motherhood and nursing them back to full strength.

In this story, Auntie Mei has encountered Chanel, a young mother who seduced and becam…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "The Largesse of the Sea Maiden" by Denis Johnson

Yet again, I bring you one of the living legends of literary fiction: Denis Johnson. If you've never read his short story collection, Jesus' Son, do so immediately after you read this blog post. Seriously, it's that good. Johnson has won or been nominated for just about every literary prize you can possibly win, the Pulitizer having eluded him twice (though he was a finalist).

Having said that, I'm sad and embarrassed to say I've never read anything of his but Jesus' Son and the short story in question here. Although I did own a copy of Tree of Smoke for about five years and even opened it a couple of times. That's probably his most critically-acclaimed opus, while Jesus' Son is what he's best known for...there is a significant difference, mind you.

Suffice it to say, Johnson is a heavy-hitter for the Contemporary Literature All-Stars and he's delivered a grand-slam of a story with "The Largesse of the Sea Maiden." Apparently the story…

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Come Together" by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Issue: February 17th & 24th, 2014

Story: "Come Together"

Author: Karl Ove Knausgaard

I read this story about a week ago and therefore it had a long time to sink in. Usually when I wait that long to write my blog post, something from the story has rattled around in my brain long enough to be just rearing to jump out on the page. Not so in this case, I'm afraid.

What we have here is a fairly textbook awkward tween-ager story of love and romance, set in Norway and translated from Norwegian. Knowing that it's creative non-fiction (essentially memoir) is important here because, in and of itself, I think the story falls a bit flat. I can see, however, how it might work as part of a larger narrative arch about this author's life, and in fact, it is part of a forthcoming volume of his behemoth My Struggle series (this volume is Boyhood), which is supposedly slated for some six volumes or something.

In the story, Karl Ove is about twelve or 13 and an ardent music geek…