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Showing posts from January, 2015

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Ways," by Colin Barrett

Issue: Jan. 5, 2015 Story: "The Ways" Author: Colin Barrett Rating: $$ Review: Set in present day Ireland in a small, rural town, Colin Barrett 's "The Ways" is a sort of "day-in-the-life" glimpse into the Munnelly family; a unit of three siblings -- Nick, Pell, and Gerry -- whose parents have died of cancer in quick succession a few years before. The family is poor, as might be expected of a parentless family whose breadwinner is the oldest sibling, who works in a restaurant, and -- though none of the members are emotionally mature enough to recognize it -- fraying at the seams. Each is sinking, or rather cocooning themselves, into their own burrow of depression and repressed emotion. Nick works constantly. Pell, who has quit school, is becoming an alcoholic. Gerry holes up in his room and plays video games for hours and hours on end. Left without parents, the Munnelly's are surviving in a material sense -- and one gets the impression th

Figo for FIFA President? Count me in...but it's not gonna happen.

One of these men will be the next president of FIFA... the other one has great hair. Yesterday, Portugese footballing legend and all-around Euro badass Luis Figo cast his hat into the ring as a candidate in the upcoming elections for president of the  Fédération Internationale de Football Association , otherwise known as FIFA, the governing body of world football, and hoping to un-seat the incumbent, Sepp Blatter, who has held the top spot since 1998 and, in all likelihood, ain't going nowhere. Blatter is 78 years old and a majorly divisive figure, as is the entire FIFA organiziation, and ask almost anyone who knows anything about world soccer (not me) and they'll tell you there's no way he's going to lose. He's too entrenched in the world soccer establishment and is too clever of a campaigner. But it's nice to see a (comparatively) young man like Figo, 42, stepping up to the plate to possibly inject some youth and possibly some integrity into this e

Book Review: The Night Guest, by Fiona McFarlane

Book: The Night Guest (2013) Author: Fiona McFarlane Review: Back in February 2013, I decided to read and review every short story in The New Yorker each week, as a way to discover new authors and to stay current on at least one vein of contemporary fiction. On a personal level,  The Night Guest  represents to me that the project is bearing fruit. I discovered Fiona McFarlane via her short story "Art Appreciation" in the May 13, 2013 issue of The New Yorker and have anxiously awaited the chance to read this her debut novel   (so anxiously in fact that it took me nearly a year and a half to buy and read it. But, life gets in the way. Anyway...). I can virtually guarantee I never would have heard of McFarlane were it not for my New Yorker reviewing, and I can virtually guarantee I'm not stopping any time soon. Set in coastal Australia, The Night Guest is the story of Ruth, a widow in her mid-70s living out her days in a little house by the beach where her

Carver Gets the Nod as NUFC Head Coach: Until May or until he bombs, whichever comes first...

John Carver...looking like a proper hard-ass. Just as I thought: Newcastle United have named John Carver as Head Coach until the end of the season. Either they're too cheap or too lazy to find someone new, or else Carver really is the best man for the job right now. I'd like to think the latter, but I have a soft heart for the underdog. Inertia is a powerful thing (especially as concerns a miser like Mike Ashley ), and the real story probably is: it's cheaper to keep Carver on than spend a bunch of money on a quick-fix who's going to have to be replaced in a year anyway. Might as well ride out the season with Carver, give him a chance, and save some bucks. Who knows? Carver might have what it takes after all...but right now the consensus among fans and pundits seems to be that Carver is a lifetime Assistant Coach and that NUFC needs a real, battle-tested and hardened professional Head Coach befitting of a big-time Premier League club. What they actually need i

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Start of the Affair" by Nuruddin Farah

Issue: Dec. 22 & 29, 2015 Story: "The Start of the Affair" Author: Nuruddin Farah Rating: $/Meh Review: I love a good piece of "world" fiction, i.e. fiction set outside the Anglophone world and/or by or about non-native English speakers. Why would I not classify a story about Australian or British middle-class white people as "world" fiction? Because I feel the context is too similar to mine and, even if not necessarily similar, too easily translated into something from my own experience. A story like "The Start of the Affair," on the other hand, takes place in a country and culture utterly foreign to me, even if, in the story, the characters speak English in order to relate to each other. "The Start of the Affair" is, as the name might suggest, a love story, but an unusual and slightly imperialist-seeming one. James, the owner of a restaurant in South Africa, falls in love with a poor Somali immigrant named Ahmed who

NUFC Managing Director Basically Says New Coach Will Have No Say in Transfers...Basically

Newcastle United FC are in the midst of a search for a new Head Coach, and a replacement seems slow in coming. My guess is they're going to keep former Pardew assistant John Carver on as Head Coach as long as they can, in spite of the fact Carver -- by all accounts -- is a lifetime Assistant Coach and not really suited for the Head Coach job. I don't see why not, but I've only been following this game and this club for six months. This is in interview with Lee Charnley, the club's Managing Director and right-hand-man to owner Mike Ashley: Most of this is standard "We want the best for the football club, we're looking for the right man for the job" kind of fluff. But there is a pretty interesting paragraph in which Charnley basically says: "We're looking for a Head Coach, not a typical English style 'Manager.'" Which basi

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Savage Breast" by Elizabeth McKenzie

Issue: Dec. 15, 2014 Story: "Savage Breast" Author: Elizabeth McKenzie Rating: $$$ Review:   Elizabeth McKenzie 's short story "Savage Breast" takes its title from an often misquoted line from William Congreave's play, The Mourning Bride . The original line goes: "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast/To soften the rocks, or bend a knotted oak." While neither Congreave nor his play, written at the end of the 17th century, are remembered today in any but the most academic of literary circles, that particular line about the "savage breast" was destined to become quoted and misquoted a bizillion times throughout the centuries, and to become the subject  of innumerable bar bets and frantic Google searches in the 21st century. I can remember at least twice in my life having to (reluctantly and with great reserve, I assure you) prove someone wrong who insisted the phrase was "savage BEAST" by pulling up the Congreave

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Reverend" by Tim Parks

Issue: Dec. 8, 2014 Story: "Reverend" Author: Tim Parks Rating: $/Meh Review:  Meta-fiction is becoming so common in these New Yorker stories, it's almost not worth remarking on it any more. Told in close third-person, "Reverend" is the story of an English man named Thomas, now in his late 50s, who is looking back at his life and his relationship with his father in the wake of his elderly mother's recent passing and his own divorce. While not strictly "meta" in the sense that there is a clearly defined "story within a story," or that the story itself is about story-telling, the narrative consists of layers of memory, so much so that there is no actual present tense action in the story. Well, I take that back. Thomas goes out for a beer or something, but it's not anything remarkable. Through these layers of memory, Thomas examines his relationship with his father, how he viewed his father as an adolescent and how he vie

Jozy Altidore: EPL no more...

Altidore striking an all-too-familiar pose...which is just about all he seemed to strike in 2014. Looks like Jozy Altidore 's time in a Sunderland AFC jersey is well as (probably) his career as a European footballer. The first observation is a fact: he's coming back to the U.S. to play for Toronto FC of the MLS. The second observation -- regarding his career as a European footballer -- is just a guess. But after his mediocre performance at Sunderland in 2014, it feels like he's coming back to the MLS to lick his wounds. And if that's the case, he's not going back to Europe. He's 25 years old. His knowledge of the game, his finesse, his creativity might improve from here, but at 25 his physical prowess isn't going to get any better. If he couldn't produce in the EPL, a more physical league than the MLS, he's not going back at age 28 or 30. I'm late to the game on Altidore; my burgeoning soccer fandom has come about a year too

New Yorker Fiction Review: "One Gram Short" by Etgar Keret

Issue: Dec. 1, 2014 Story: "One Gram Short" Author: Etgar Keret Rating: $ Review: A story will always get extra room in my heart for being lean, short, and quick to the point, as is this neat little tale by Israeli writer Etgar Keret. "One Gram Short" is my kind of fiction in that it's fast-moving with a lot of dialogue and deals with noir-ish material; in this case, a young Israeli man trying to get some weed so that he can ask his local barista -- on whom he has a crush -- if she wants to smoke, even though he doesn't smoke or know if she does. It's a basic Problem-Solution type story, with a cool bit of adolescent approach-avoidance thrown in at the end to give it a higher-minded, existential kind of feel. I don't have a ton of analysis here, because it's not exactly the kind of story that merits a lot of analysis; it's the kind of story that's fun to read . Often times -- too often -- the stuff that's fun in the mo

Lampard-gate: Joke's on us, I guess...

For anyone not closely following the Frank Lampard/NYCFC/Manchester City situation ...and I'd imagine there are a lot of's the breakdown. In July 2014 - MLS expansion club New York City FC (slated to join competitive play at the start of the 2015 season) announces that it has signed former Chelsea FC (English Premier League) striker Frank Lampard. August 2014 - NYC FC announces it has loaned Lampard back to its sister club, Manchester City FC, for the first half of the 2014/15 EPL season. (Background: Manchester City and NYC FC are owned by the same company) December 2014 - Manchester City announces that Lampard will continue to stay on for the club until (at least) the conclusion of the 2014/15 season, and thus not be joining NYC FC until at least July or August 2015, after the MLS season is more than half over. Even if you're only the most casual of sports fans and don't know diddly-poo about sports business (in other this should make

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Eykelboom" by Brad Watson

Issue: Nov. 24, 2014 Story: "Eykelboom" Author: Brad Watson Rating: $$ Review: Brad Watson 's a new one on me. From the looks of it he's an established, well-published (if not exactly well-known), Upper-Middle Tier player in the literary ranks; two books of short stories, a novel, a handful of awards and nominations, and a professorship at the University of Wyoming . Not exactly a piker, but no George Saunders either (he's the only literary heavy-weight I could think of right now). He's got the kind of solid, productive, creative writing success story that literary hopes and dreams are built on in this country ("See...Brad Watson did it, you can too!" kind of thing). I know because I've been there...the dreamer, not the example. Anyway, "Eykelboom" is a dark, eerie look into the cruel and unforgiving world of near-adolescent boyhood, focusing on a small piece of a sub-urban sprawl neighborhood outside a small 60s era sou

What the hell is going on with Man City?

Jumpin' Dzeko's...what is going on with the Sky Blues these days?? 1.) Frank Lampard staying-on at Man City instead of playing for NYC FC The English Muffin Gasp! Unthinkable! soon as I heard that NYC FC and Man City had the same ownership and that they'd pulled this little dipsy-doo of "sending" Lampard to NYC FC only to "loan" him back to Man City, I knew damn well that Man City wasn't giving him up until the very minute, the absolute moment, when he became no longer useful to them. And...even though he's playing 20 minutes a game or that they're in contention for the Premier League Crown...forget about it. See you in the fall, Lamps. I mostly just feel bad for the NYC FC fans who dutifully ponied up for season tickets or whatever, hoping that they'd be seeing Lampard (because they were told they'd be seeing him) on the pitch for their newly adopted club. I'm not staying up late at night crying

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Alaska of Giants and Gods" by Dave Eggers

Issue: Nov. 17, 2014 Story: "The Alaska of Giants and Gods" Author: Dave Eggers Rating: Meh Meh Meh Review: I'm most familiar with Dave Eggers as the author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (which I've never read) and in his role as the founder of McSweeney's , the ultra-hip, extremely cutting-edge literature and humor blog which has rejected everything I've ever sent them, albeit with a really nice, personal rejection email. Other than that, I have a book of Eggers' essays on my bookshelf, How We Are Hungry , that I've been meaning to read since the Bush administration. The bottom line is he's a many times published author and screenwriter and internet media impresario, culturally and artistically relevant even if the peak of his relevance (perhaps) has come and gone. He's not that far off the peak and may hit it again for all we know, but the fickle finger of fame and relevance only seems to alight on hipster media peop

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Primum Non Nocere" by Antonya Nelson

Issue: Nov. 10, 2014 Story: "Primum Non Nocere" Author: Antonya Nelson Rating: $/Meh Review: The second visit in 2014 by  Antonya Nelson to the pages of my beloved New Yorker leaves us with another up-close look at an odd-ball, patch-worked, but ultimately functional American family. While the main action in "First Husband" ( The New Yorker 1/6/14, TGCB 1/26/14) was mostly internal, emotional, and not of any real physical consequence, in "Primum Non Nocere," Nelson ratchets up the intensity a bit and causes the family under this story's microscope to deal with Joy, an unhinged mental patient with a knife, who threatens Claudia, the level-headed woman of the house and Joy's psycho-therapist. Claudia is by far the most interesting character of a lot which includes Claudia's younger, "boy toy" husband, Zachary, a philandering sex-addict who runs a massage practice; Claudia's teenaged children, Robby and Jewel, through