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New Yorker Fiction Review #130: "1 = 1" by Anne Carson

Issue: Jan. 11, 2016

Story: "1 = 1" by Anne Carson

Rating: $/Meh

Review: Much more of a poetic "meditation" than a story, I found "1 = 1" somewhat difficult to get through (even though it's only two New Yorker pages) and I did not appreciate it's rambling, stream-of-consciousness nature. Furthermore, and especially with a story I didn't really like, I rarely have the patience or time to go back over a story a second time in order to "get it." Though I take my fiction reviewing seriously, we're talking about short stories in a weekly magazine here, not the Torah.

Rarely have I felt so disengaged from what an author was "trying to do" than when reading this story. And I actually did attempt to read it twice through, neither time successfully. I imagine there are people out there who read and enjoyed this story, even loved it. And I'd love to hear from them, but I'm probably not going to, some kind of an explanation of why this story works or makes sense. I suspect it is, like some poetry, an attempt to capture the workings of the mind at the place where the conscious and the unconscious meet. If so...great.

One sort of highlight was Anne Carson's meditation on swimming and water:

"Water is different from air as from stones, and you must find your way through its structures, its ancientness, the history of an entity without response to you and yet complicit in your obstinate intrusion. You have no personality there, and water is uninterested in itself, stones do not care if you tell their story nicely."

I find these are the kinds of observations that stick with me for a long time and are part of the reason I like to read fiction. I suppose reading this story was worth my time for this rumination alone, but just barely.


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