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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. 


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