Skip to main content

New Yorker Fiction Review: "So You're Just What, Gone?" by Justin Taylor

Issue: May 18, 2015

Story: "So You're Just What, Gone?" by Justin Taylor

Rating: $/Meh

Review: A young teenage girl gets on a plane and sits next to a man who gives her his cell phone number. She, being a curious (and ignorant (and kind of stupid)) teenage girl, texts him late at night and gets involved in a sext message exchange that, while thankfully does not result in an actual meet-up, provides her an eerie glimpse into a world of perverted sexuality she might have guessed was out there but had never actually encountered before. 

At first read it was tempting for me to look at this story and lament the fact that the modern world makes it so much easier for perverts to operate, what with cell phones, the internet, etc. but but I don't necessarily think that's the point of this story and I don't think that, in fact, the world is any more or less dangerous for children now than it was 20 or 50 or 100 years ago because of the internet or whatever. There are creeps then, there are creeps now. But I digress...

So what is "So You're Just What, Gone?" really about? In a very subtle way, the story is about self-awareness and the ways by which we arrive at that point. Will Charity call the next stranger who slips  her a phone number on an airplane, I'm thinking probably not, as she now understands (or better understands) that her actions have consequence and realizes that maybe she had better stick to flirting with teenagers, as there's a lot about the adult world she doesn't understand or really want to understand just yet. A valuable lesson learned in a relatively painless way. 

Reason for the mixed rating is that I flat out don't like being trapped in the mind of a teenager for very long and when I do, I'd like it to be someone complex, like a Holden Caulfield type. While I admire Taylor's ability to get into the head of a teenage girl and use lots of words like "eww" and "gross" and "spaz" and make references to modern social media, Charity just isn't interesting enough to make this story an engaging read in and of itself. Take out the prurience that seems to underlie most stories about or involving teenagers, and the story is pretty flat in general. 

Really, the most interesting part of this story is when Charity play out in her mind the aftermath of having reported Mark (the pervert) to the authorities. She imagines having to explain to all her friends, having to undergo counselling, and having to, ultimately, answer the question of why she had texted Mark in the first place. The answer is much simpler than anyone could realize:

"...really, texting Mark was like peeking in the doorway of a bar or the teachers' lounge--someplace you could get in trouble for going into but were curious to glimpse the inside of, just to be able to say you knew what was in there." 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Apologizer" by Milan Kundera

Issue: May 4, 2015

Rating: $$

Review: It took me five years and three separate attempts to finish Milan Kundera's famous novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but in spite of that, quotes and insights from that book still rattle round my head on a weekly basis. What I mean to say is: my feelings on Kundera are very similar to my feelings on Haruki Murakami. I enjoy reading his work, but in small doses, like this short story.

Like Murakami, Kundera uses elements of magical realism, but where in a Murakami story you might encounter a flying dolphin or a disappearing hotel or a person who has lived his whole life in the same room, refusing to leave, Kundera's magical realism offers more direct insights and perspective on real life.

In Kundera's worlds, time and space are malleable and everything that ever happened in history is happening at the same time, and the narrator is a completely omniscient, caring, witty, and hands-on god-like being.

And so it is with "The Apo…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Meet the President!" by Zadie Smith

Each week I review the short fiction from a recent issue of The New Yorker. If you told me when I was 12 that I'd be doing this I'd have been like, "Dork. There's no such thing as blogs," and I'd have been right...

Issue: Aug. 12 & 19, 2013

Story: "Meet the President!"

Author:Zadie Smith

(Please note: I've developed a highly sophisticated grading system, which I'll be using from now on.  Each story will now receive a Final Grade of either READ IT or DON'T READ it. See the bottom of the review for this story's grade...after you've read the review, natch.)

Plot: Set in England, far into the future (lets say 2113) a privileged youth of 15, named Bill Peek, encounters a few poor villagers from a small, abandoned coastal town on the southeast shore. He meets a little girl named Aggie, who is going to her sister's funeral. Peek is cut-off from real life by a sophisticated video game system that is implanted in his head, therefore th…

A Piece of Advice I Learned From My Grandfather

My grandfather was one of the most learned men I know. He read widely and voraciously, and not just in the sciences (he was a doctor); he loved politics, philosophy, and great literature as well. Whenever he finished a book he would write his thoughts about the book in the front cover and then sign and date it. To this day every once in a while I will open a book from my bookshelf or my mother's bookshelf, or at one of my family members' homes, and there will be my grandfather's handwriting. He was also a great giver of his books; if you remarked that you liked a particular one or wanted to read it, you were almost sure to take it home with you.

Reading is a very solitary pursuit but my grandfather was not a solitary person. He relished having family and friends around him which is convenient because he was blessed with a lot of both. And he carried out his intellectual life in a very "public" way as well. He was, in some ways, an intellectual evangelist. If he r…