Skip to main content

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, the original fairy tale. I feel like Cunningham could have turned it on it's head a bit more, gone in a new direction. This is fiction after all. Let's have some fun...don't let the poor little gnome get the raw end of the deal AGAIN for Pete's Sake. Come ahn!!

Apparently Cunningham is a pretty big deal: Iowa MFA, novels and movie adaptations under his belt, senior lecturer at Yale, enough prizes to and accolades to fill up a bar napkin even if you were writing with a fine point pen. But...that doesn't mean his story was super compelling or that the NYer should be publishing this kind of thing when there's got to be a lot more new and original fiction out there that comes from the heart and from real experience and from folks who need to get their names out there. 


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…