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Showing posts from November, 2014

Playboy Fiction Review: "Perfida" by James Ellroy

Issue: September 2014

Novel Exerpt: from Perfida (2014)

Author: James Ellroy

Rating: $$

Review: When you read a book or short story by James Ellroy, you pretty much know what to expect. It will be a crime/detective story. It will be set in Los Angeles. It will take place in the 1930s or 1940s. And above all, it will be pure noir. James Ellroy did not invent noir but he is the reigning Champion, the King, the Chairman of the Board of modern day noir fiction. And when it comes to L.A. noir -- a separate and distinct category -- forget about it: he's God. So it's no surprise that this story (novel) takes place in Los Angeles in 1941 and that it's good.

This part of the novel takes place not only in 1941, but on the night before a very infamous date in 1941...you guessed it: the attack on Pearl Harbor. Even more interesting is that one of the main characters in the book, Detective Ashida, is gay and a Japanese American. Imagine how weird things are going to get for him in about 24…

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Story, With Bird" by Kevin Canty

Issue: Oct. 6, 2014

Story: "Story, With Bird"

Author:Kevin Canty

Rating: $$$$

Review: There is a special place in my heart for the fiction of Kevin Canty. His story "Mayfly," from the January 28, 2013 issue of the New Yorker, was the story that made me want to start writing weekly reviews of the NYer fiction. At the very least, that story was the tipping point where I said that occasionally reading the NYer fiction wasn't enough; I realized that the absolute best contemporary short fiction was being delivered to my door every week and, as an aspiring writer myself, I needed to not only be reading it every week but studying the stories, analyzing them. To what ultimate good would this endeavor ever come? How long would I last? When would I know when I'd done "enough" and no longer needed to read and write about the story each week? I don't know, and I still don't know. What I do know is, discovering authors like Kevin Canty is what makes this p…

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Rosendale" by Paul La Farge

Issue: Sept. 29, 2014

Story: "Rosendale"

Author:Paul La Farge

Rating: $

Review: Jeeze..."meta-fiction" is all the rage these days, eh? Seems like you can't throw a copy of The Crying of Lot 49 in a Barnes and Noble anymore without hitting a meta-fictional something or other. It's all over the place: books, short stories, film. It's all about the story within the story, or else it's about a writer/filmmaker's inward and outward struggle to write/make the book/film. Have we run out of things to write about, so that we now have to turn -- increasingly -- to the subject of creating art itself as a subject? Or is it just that everyone and their Aunt Judy fancies themselves a writer/filmmaker these days. I'd say it's some unfortunate combination of the two.

To be fair, meta-fiction has been around for a while, probably as long as story-telling itself. The ancient Greek and Roman epics all start out with in invocation of the muse, drawing attention…

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Jack, July" by Victor Lodato

Issue: Sept. 22, 2014

Story: "Jack, July"

Author:Victor Lodato

Rating: $$$$

Review: This is the best New Yorker story I've read since Greg Jackson's "Wagner in the Desert" from over the summer, and easily one of my top five of 2014...probably in my top two, along with said story.

The story covers one desperate day in the life of a meth-addict named Jack, who is suffering withdrawal symptoms on the Fourth of July on the oppressively hot streets of suburban Albuquerque. Told in a close third-person voice, the twisted, spinning, disjointed, unreliable nature of the narrative is like looking at Jack's world through a kaleidoscope.

Jack's memory and perceptions have been collapsed and tainted by meth, and Lodato does an incredible job of pulling that off through the narrative. Coming down off his most recent high, Jack returns to his girlfriend's house, looking to cop, only to find that she's no longer his girlfriend and has not been for a year. In f…

Playboy Fiction Review: "Extreme (Part III)" by Don Winslow

Issue: July/August 2014

Story: "Extreme (Part III)"

Author: Don Winslow

Rating: Triple Meh

Review: I've said this before, but I think it bears repeating: I wish there were some sort of mystical Bureau of Inane and Meaningless Statistics, so that I could see how many people there are in the world who actually took the time out of their lives to read not one but all three installments of this no-doubt very well-intentioned but mostly un-exciting piece of action fiction published over three consecutive issues of Playboy Magazine this summer. I would bet my left ass-cheek (a sizable wager, I assure you) that number can be counted on one hand. As for how many people have taken the time to blog about this story? I would say: two. Why two? Because there have to be at least a couple whack-o Don Winslow fanatics out there who drool over everything that comes off the guy's pen, and at least ONE of those whackos has to have a blog (hey, it takes one to know one (bloggers, not Don W…

My Premier League Week 10 Highlights

Tottenham over Aston Villa: It might not've been pretty and it might not have answered any real questions about Tottenham's ineffectuality, but Spurs' two-goals in six minutes comeback over Aston Villa to win the game and earn three much needed points...was about the most exciting thing I saw all weekend on the football pitch. If you really break it down, Spurs dominated possession, shots on goal, and just about every other stat they keep track of in soccer, yet still looked pretty much impotent against Aston Villa, who put in an early 15' goal off a clinical cross right into the box. Tottenham's two late-game goals came from a corner kick and a deflected free kick, after Aston Villa had gone a man down, having lost Benteke to a red card. The takeaways from this game: 1.) Tottenham's Harry Kane (scorer of the go-ahead free kick goal) looks to be a game-changer and Pochettino would be wise to start him next week, 2.) Tottenham still need to figure out what the h…