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Showing posts from October, 2015

New Yorker Fiction Review #110: "Little Man" by Michael Cunningham

Issue: Aug. 10 & 17, 2015
Story: "Little Man" by Michael Cunningham
Rating: $/Meh
Review: This is your classic "fairy tale brought to life" type of story, in which the author takes the legend of Rumpelstiltskin and breathes some modern-day life and humanity into it by casting Rumpelstiltskin as an aging bachelor who just wants a child to raise and care for. 
These fairy tale re-tellings can be a lot of fun, Robert Coover does this a lot, sometimes in the pages of The New Yorker. I will admit this particular re-telling was fun to read, mostly because I'd forgotten the Rumpelstiltskin legend a long time ago and it was fun to think of a gnarled little 200 year old gnome feeling a nesting instinct and -- knowing he'll never find a woman and have a child naturally -- deciding to adopt by the only means he sees available to him.
I don't need to go on for hundreds of words re-hashing my thoughts on a fairy tale story that followed, pretty closely I see now, t…

New Yorker Fiction Review #109: "Five Arrows" by Heinz Insu Fenkl

Issue: Aug. 3, 2015

Story: "Five Arrows" by Heinz Inzu Fenkl

Rating: $

Review: Even though it's nearly three months since this story was published, my reading of it co-coincided nicely with events in my own life: in the story, two cousins paddle across a river in post-WWII or Korean WarKorea (presumably South Korea but I don't know) to find a long-lost family member called Big Uncle, who has taken residence inside a small cave in the deep forest in order to die from gangrene that has infected his leg.

No, I do not have an uncle who has holed up inside a cave to die. But I did go canoe camping last weekend and the experience was still very fresh in my mind and so, unlike with a lot of stories in which you have to translate yourself into the story's environment, I felt like I was plunged right into this one. Temperate zone woods, after all, are pretty similar whether they're in Korea or Poland or Indiana.

Anyway, a bit of research and I found out that Heinz Inzu F…

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Silk Brocade" by Tessa Hadley

Story: "Silk Brocade" by Tessa Hadley

Issue: July 27, 2015

Rating: $/Meh

Review: Seeing a Tessa Hadley story on The New Yorker's table of contents does not tend to raise my pulse; her tales tend to be ornate, slow-moving, albeit well-crafted, ones in which nothing much happens (which is not a problem, this is literature) and in which the change that goes on inside the main character is so subtle, if it even happens, that the story would bear re-reading at least once in order to grasp its significance. I'm of the opinion that an author -- any author -- is lucky if a reader draws their eyes across her writing even once, let alone many times, especially in a short story, and therefore there's not a lot of time for deep subtleties and hidden messages and emotional tremors so slight they can barely be perceived.

However, I have to give credit where it's due and say that this story "moved" a bit more than Hadley's usual fare. Set mostly in England in the…

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Ghosts and Empties" by Lauren Groff

Story: "Ghosts and Empties" by Lauren Groff

Issue: July 20, 2015

Rating: $$

Review: I'm so far behind in my New Yorker Fiction reviewing, I should probably keep this short just so I can move on to the next review in quick style.

I do not know who Lauren Groff is but I know she's my age and she's pretty insightful. I've never read a story in which someone so successfully manages to turn a character's nightly evening walk into a canvas on which to reflect on themselves, on society, on life, on gentrification, time, parenting, and a few other things besides.

Every pause between the end of one breath and the beginning of the next is long; then again, nothing is not always in transition. Soon, tomorrow, the boys will be men, and my husband an I will look at each other crouching under the weight of all we wouldn't or couldn't yell, and all those hours outside walking, my body, my shadow, and the moon.

Paul Simon fans will recognize the title "Ghosts an…