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Showing posts from May, 2016

New Yorker Fiction Review #137: "Buttony" by Fiona McFarlane

Issue: March 7, 2016

Story: "Buttony" by Fiona McFarlane

Rating: $

Review: I'm predisposed to like Fiona McFarlane because she wrote one of the greatest New Yorker stories I've ever read, "Art Appreciation" (TGCB, 5/18/13) -- actually one of the greatest stories I've ever read, full stop -- and I have since read and enjoyed (but was not overly blown-away by) her debut novel The Night Guest. Suffice it to say, she's a writer whose burgeoning career I've been able to follow and appreciate in real-time.

"Buttony" is a small, tightly packed, tightly-wound story that takes place over the course of about an hour, and deals with a class of school children who, led by their teacher and the most popular student, Joseph, play a round of their favorite game, called "buttony." Except this time, something goes awry which causes the normally civil and carefully executed game turn into chaos.

What it is that goes awry, and how it goes awry, an…

New Yorker Fiction Review #136: "Total Solar" by Luke Mogelson

Issue: Feb. 29, 2016

Story: "Total Solar" by Luke Mogelson

Rating: $$$

Review: Even better than having giants like DeLillo and Saunders, this is what I like to read in The New Yorker fiction section: the work of a new and emerging young voice. I vaguely recognized Luke Mogelson's name when I opened up the pages of this issue (I'm only two months behind!!), but then immediately recognized his style as soon as I started reading "Total Solar." Mogelson's quick, raw, darkly humorous and introspective fiction appeared last year in the NYer, with his story "Peacetime" from the April 27, 2015 issue (TGCB 5/13/2015). I loved that story for the same reasons I like this story: 1.) because his writing has a way of reaching through the page, grabbing you by the shirt collar, and bringing you into the story immediately, and 2.) because his subject matter -- the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the people who serve in and around those wars -- is not something …

New Yorker Fiction Review #135: "Sine Cosine Tangent" by Don DeLillo

Issue: Feb. 22, 2016

Story:"Sine Cosine Tangent" by Don DeLillo

Rating: $$$

Review: Stories by George Saunders and Don DeLillo back to back? What the hell is The New Yorker trying to do...kill me??

Like Saunders, DeLillo is a giant of contemporary English letter. Hell, a titan. I'd even go ahead and say he's carved out a permanent place in the pantheon of English literature. Period. Such is the depth and accuracy and skill with which he plumbs the depths of dysfunction in modern society with his prose and the sheer number of times he's done it...including his new novel Zero K.

Gotta confess, however, I didn't even realize he was still alive.

"Sine Cosine Tangent" is a story about a period during the adolescence of Jeffrey Lockhart (a character in Zero K, although I'm told this story is not an "excerpt" of the novel, per se), a young man with divorced parents, during which a fascination with words starts to emerge from that great miasma of…