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Showing posts from December, 2014

Par-Don't!....Alan Pardew to leave Newcastle United for Crystal Palace

Well there it is, folks...Pardew is OUT. But not in the way I'm sure a lot of Newcastle supporters would've hoped eight or ten weeks ago when the "Sack Pardew" campaign was in full-force and Newcastle were looking pretty ineffectual. In the interim, Newcastle went on a run of about six straight wins including league wins over Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham, just to name a few, and most recently Everton. Even if they took a slight dip there a couple weeks ago, it had seemed, quite unequivocally, like they were "back."

And then...in a matter of about 48 hours, emerges the news that Alan Pardew was at first in talks with Crystal Palace and then that he was, quite confirmedly, headed there to begin coaching as of the first of the year. I've heard his NUFC assistants have already taken over.


I can understand Pardew's wanting to go; he's got history with CP and he's originally from the south of England. And...there's the whole "Sack Par…

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Empties" by Jess Row

Issue: Nov. 3, 2014

Story: "The Empties"

Author: Jess Row

Rating: $$$

Review: Pretty soon I'm gonna have to start calling this blog the Meta-Fictional Review. It's getting to the point where every other story inThe New Yorker relies heavily on meta-fiction. I'm wondering if this is an actual, verifiable literary trend, a coincidence, or something that's been going on for a while and that I'm just now noticing. Knowing how late-to-the-game I normally am on things like this, I'm gonna have to go with the latter; however, in January I'll have been reviewing New Yorker stories for two solid years, and in that time I've never seen a run of meta-fictional stories as consistent as I have the past few weeks/months.

From the looks of it, Jess Row is another one of those young writers (40 this year) who has spent his 20s and 30s building the foundation for a serious and distinguished Literary (with a capital L) career. He's bona fide, the real thing. MF…

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Alan Bean Plus Four" by Tom Hanks

Issue: Oct. 27, 2014

Story: "Alan Bean Plus Four"

Author: Tom Hanks

Rating: Meh

Review: First off, let's get a few things out of the way: Yes, it's thatTom Hanks, and No, the story is not that good.

After my little Murakami love-fest last week, I'm all out of celebrity author worship. Which is good, because I absolutely love the actor Tom Hanks and, had this story hit me at another time, I could envision a situation in which (while not exactly gushing about it (cause, it's not that remarkable)) I might have gone a little softer on "Alan Bean Plus Four." And I'm glad of that because, frankly, actors who make $30 million per year don't deserve free passes.

Channeling his Apollo 13 days (I guess), "Alan Bean Plus Four" is a tonge-in-cheek comedy that tells the story of a DIY space flight conducted in a scrapped Apollo era space capsule. The narrator talks of how much technology has changed since 1969 and how relatively easy it is to get t…

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Ordinary Sins" by Kirstin Valdez Quade

Issue: Oct. 20, 2014

Story: "Ordinary Sins"

Author:Kirstin Valdez Quade

Rating: $

Review: Kirstin Valdez Quade seems to be establishing a nice little career for herself in the world of American Letters. I use the diminutive "little" there because, for a writer, let's face it: she's a baby. She recently received a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" Award (which I didn't even know was a thing until about three minutes ago) and has amassed a nice list of publications in places like Best American Short Stories and The New Yorker, as well as a book. In other words, she's got the chops and the resume of a great fiction writer at the start of what could be a long and distinguished career...or she could be on her way to becoming another blip on the radar screen with a lot of other blips. But right now, she's pulling up trees.

"Ordinary Sins" is a miniature exploration into Catholic and human values through the eyes of Crystal, a young…

New Yorker Review: "Scheherazade" by Haruki Murakami

Issue: October 13, 2014

Story: "Scheherazade"

Author: Haruki Murakami

Rating: $$$

Review: One does not simply "walk" into Mordor, and one does not simply "review" a Haruki Murakami story. It's difficult for me to explain precisely why that is. Let's start with the simple fact that Haruki Murakami is an enormously gifted and successful writer who has published dozens of books and is known and loved all over the world, especially by serious readers. He's easily one of the greatest living long-form prose fiction writers alive today. For that reason alone, I feel a little small as I step up the bat to review this story.

The other reason it feels strange to review a Murakami story is that, quite simply, he doesn't write as though he's submitting his stories and characters for anyone's approval. His stories just are. They exist. It would be like trying to review a tree or a mountain. He takes time and care with his stories and that time and …