Skip to main content

New Yorker Fiction Review #117: "Vespa" by Tim Parks

Issue: Oct. 5, 2015

Story: "Vespa" by Tim Parks

Rating: $$$

Review: Tim Park's last NYer short story, "Reverend", from the Dec. 8, 2014 issue (TGCB 1/18/2015) fell a little flat in my mind and failed to make any kind of impression. "Vespa," however, is an astute, urgent, compactly written meditation on adolescence and young manhood, in which every sentence seems to carry more weight than the one before it.

"Vespa" takes place over a 48 or 72 hour period in which Mark, an older teenage boy, gets his Vespa stolen, and then gets it back, all while he's trying to keep his girlfriend, the enchanting and exotic Jasmin, interested in him, negotiate a challenging assignment in art class, and find his footing in an adult world which still seems to operate independently of him and very much in opposition to his wishes. Even though he's in "college" (which in England I take it is like the first two years of American college), has a cool Vespa and a hot girlfriend, his ego is still that of a fragile teenager. He is stepping ever so tentatively onto the seemingly thin ice of the adult world, but without much confidence in himself or his moves or his place in the world...

"There was a constant windy tug to the day that he just didn't feel part of. He didn't feel part of the world at all."

Damn if that doesn't describe with dead-on accuracy what it feels like to be a teenager on a bad day. The world feels lonely, unfair, and completely unresponsive to you. You feel stupid and incompetent. Indecisive. I'm having flashbacks even know that I'm writing this.

The wonderful thing about this story is the subtle change that comes over Mark at the end of the harrowing experience of having his Vespa stolen and almost losing his girlfriend. It seems as though the incident has put him through some kind of emotional wringer and, just by virtue of having made it out the other end of the wringer with his emotions and ego intact, he is stronger and smarter. He notices things he didn't notice before. He acts decisively and in accordance with his own wishes and with respect to his own desires. You might say he starts to grow a pair of balls.

Fantastic story. Read it here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/05/vespa

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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 …