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New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Prospectors" by Karen Russell

Issue: June 8 & 15, 2015

Story: "The Prospectors" by Karen Russell

Rating: $

Review: Knowing what I know about Karen Russell, I read this story with a very careful eye for when the "magic" was going to enter the story and, sure enough, right on schedule, the story's two protagonistas (if that's a word) find themselves at a lavish party in a secluded mountainside mansion...FULL OF GHOSTS! WHOA! Can you hear my sacrasm? If not, let me just tell you flat-out how little I care about hotels full of dead miners from the 1800s who don't even know they're dead yet. 

What was much, much more interesting were the secret double-lives of the two female main characters, who drift around the country working odd jobs and worming their way into the acquaintance of "high society" types, where they then go to fancy parties and creep around their hosts' homes -- and sometimes sleep with them -- in the hope of making a big score of jewels or at least having a little fun. 

Why did there need to be an old mansion full of ghost-miners? Is this young adult fiction? Should Karen Russell be writing young adult fiction? THAT I think is the real question here. 

Single "$" rating because it wasn't a bad read at all, in fact, until the ghost miners appear I didn't have to roll my eyes or put the magazine down once. The story keeps you going with prurient undertones between the two young women and also about what they might be up to at the party where they initially think they're going, as well as the sort of "interloper" trick whereby we are ushered into a foreign and exciting world through the eyes of normal people like us. 


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New Yorker Fiction Review #146: "Three Short Moments in a Long Life" by John L'Heureux

Issue: May 9, 2016

Story: "Three Short Moments in a Long Life" by John L'Heureux

Rating: $

Review: I feel like this is a somewhat tired technique, straight out of Creative Writing 101: write a story consisting of three or four different snapshots or snippets out of a character's life at different ages, sort of like a series of written photographs. Fun perhaps, but strikes me as a bit amateurish. However, I also think L'Heureux succeeds here by pushing it a bit further, playing with the character's tentative attempts at something close to faith -- in childish, adult, and mature adult ways -- and tying all three "Short Moments" together in a subtle and readily decipherable way.

L'Heureux's prose and his frank humor and his ability to glorify and find the meaning in the mundane events and thoughts of every day life, and thereby turn the life of an ordinary person into a drama with meaning and significance puts me in mind of John Irving. As well a…

New Yorker Fiction Review #151: "The Bog Girl" by Karen Russell

From the June 20 issue...

My loyal readers (if there are still any, which I doubt) will know I'm usually not a fan of Magical Realism, which, as you may also know, is Karen Russell's stock in trade. That said, there's nothing I love more than having my antipathy for magical realism shattered by an awesome story like "The Bog Girl."

Briefly, an Irish teenager discovers the body of a young woman who as been buried in a bog for over 2,000 years and begins to date her. What more do you need, right? If I'd read that one-line description somewhere else, and wasn't on a mission to review every New Yorker short story, I doubt I'd have read "The Bog Girl." But maybe I should start doing a George Costanza and do the opposite of everything I think I should do.

Where Russell succeeds here is in two main areas: 1.) Making us really love Cillian, the teenager who falls in love with the bog girl, and 2.) pulling the unbelievable trick making the characters…

Water Review: San Pellegrino 250ml Bottle

Damn you, tiny little bottle of San Pellegrino. So little. So cute. But what are you really good for other than to make me wish I had a full bottle of Pellegrino? 
Good as a palate cleanser after a nice double espresso, I will give it that. But little else. The suave yet chaotic burst of Pellegrino bubbliness is still there, but with each sip you feel the tragedy of being that much closer to the end of the bottle, that much faster.

This is a bottle of water made specifically for the frustrated, for the meticulous, for the measurers among us with a penchant for the dainty. This water does not love you in the wild, on a sunny porch or with the raucous laughter of friends. No...much the opposite. Whatever that may be.

Best drunk in tiny, tiny sips, while forcing oneself through an unreadable and depressing Russian novel one does not want to read but feels one should, on a cold, wet day in December that promises four months of gloom and depression...or in pairs or threes and poured over …