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Showing posts from September, 2015

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Reading Comprehension Text No. 1" by Alejandro Zambra

Issue: July 6 & 13, 2015 Story: "Reading Comprehension Text No. 1" by Alejandro Zambra Rating: $/Meh Review: I really, really did not want to review this story. I'm not 100% sure why. I liked Zambra's story from the May 26, 2014 issue "Camillo" pretty well. Zambra writes very accessibly (though, it is translated) and with a drily humorous style, about being a teenager in Chile. He does it with the sort of subversive, anti-authoritarian bent that a lot of Latin American writers -- and Latin Americans in general -- have had to adopt as a way to keep their souls intact in the face of a recent history of oppression and dictatorships. Anyway, Zambra's writing is fun, and I suppose this "gimmick piece," formed in the style of a reading comprehension text, complete with multiple choice questions at the end, was kind of fun to read. In fact, in my opinion, the questions are where you get the real "point" of the story, if the

Pumpkin Beer Report, Volume I: Shipyard's Pumpkinhead Ale

That thing in his hand is a glass of Pumpkin Flavoring #48C59 Orange... It's Fall, ladies and gentlemen, and you know what that means, yes, indeed...leaves, the smells of woodsmoke, cool breezes, pumpkins all that b.s. In Indiana, it not only means all of that, but it means the window is open on what probably amounts to about two good months (split between spring and fall) when it's nice to be outside and the bugs are gone. I say that as I just got bit by a mosquito...indoors. It means all that...and it means PUMPKIN BEERS ARE BACK BABY. Oh yes...from about mid-August until they all sell out (somewhere just prior to Halloween or a week or so into November, if we're lucky) the cinammony, spicy, pumpkiny autumnal goodness that is pumpkin flavored beer will be on the shelves. It excites me almost like the annual coming of Boo-Berry cereal when I was a kid...only less, because my heart has grown blacker and blacker with age.... Just kidding! No way a cereal could compar

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Flower" by Louise Erdrich

Issue Date: June 29, 2015 Story: "The Flower" by Louise Erdrich Rating: $$$ Review: Louise Erdrich kind of lost me after her last NYer story "The Big Cat" from the March 31, 2014 issue of The New Yorker and the April 8th, 2014 posting of this blog . You see, there was a time when I wasn't three months behind in my reviewing. Aye yai yai. Anyway, "The Big Cat" failed to impress me, mostly because it felt like Erdrich was trying to be too civilized, telling the story of a modern-day, middle-class suburban white man and his modern-day, middle-class suburban white man problems and emotions. That's fine...for someone else. But to me Erdrich is better when she's writing about the wild people and the flaming passions of the West, whether of Native Americans or whites, whether in the present or the past. Something about the rugged landscape and untamed characters tend to bring out the best in Erdrich. Three stars because, like a good &qu

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Grow Light Blues" by Ben Marcus

Issue Date: June 22, 2015 Story: "The Grow Light Blues" by Ben Marcus Rating: $$$ Review: Sometime in the not-too-distant but disproportionately effed-up future (and era about which I love to read) Carl Hirsch works for a tech startup testing the latest form of nutrition delivery system: a human grow light. Carl is weaned off solid food and even liquid food, save for a once-a-week smoothie to prevent him from dying of starvation, so that his company can test the grow-light on him. Daily he is blasted with searing beams of light to his face that feel like they are tightening his skin and disfiguring him...which they are. Deprived of food and blasted with high beams of light all day, Carl begins to unravel as his body rebels and his mind sinks to impossible levels of sadness and depression. He is fired from the experiment after he inexplicably sends a picture of his scrotum to the entire company. He "retires" to be the groundskeeper of a grade school and ev