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New Yorker Fiction Review #143: "Anhedonia, Here I Come" by Colin Barrett

Issue: April 18, 2016

Story: "Anhedonia, Here I Come" by Colin Barrett

Rating: Meh/$

Review: So...this is a not-completely un-interesting story about a young wanna-be poet who is more in love with affecting the look and lifestyle of a poet than actually writing great poetry and who finds himself becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of having money and living a bourgeois existence, even desirous of it. 

Mixed review because the first page of the story was so laden with unnecessary adjectives that I barely got through it. I remembered a lot better from Colin Barrett, based on his story "The Ways" from back in early 2015, which I really, really liked. But with sentences like the following, it was really hard to keep my eyes on the page this time:

"With his cheeks flocked with old acne scars, the sebum gleam to his macrocephalic forehead, his long, exquisitely dented aquiline nose (his favorite feature), inexpiably seedy smile, and hair an untamable squall of dark curls, Bobby, at twenty-nine, resembled a not unhandsome but grotesquely ancient teenager, a physical template he happened to consider the Platonic ideal for a poet."

It hurt my head to read that the first time, and every subsequent time after. Furthermore there are at least two words in there that I don't think are even actual words. Even FURTHERmore, I still don't even know WTF Bobby looks like. I would have to sit down with a pencil and a piece of paper and map it all out, and I'd probably come up with something resembling a creature from the movie Dark Crystal (Which, btw, is one of the freakiest, creepiest kids movies ever made. Do not watch this movie alone in the dark, or stoned).

But I can't completely dismiss this story just because it was over-wrought with adjectives and pretty boring. I think Bobby Tallis has potential to be an interesting character, and the concept of "anhedonia," or the withdrawal of any type of feeling, good or bad, which leads to the desire to commit suicide, is pretty interesting. Bobby does not have anhedonia, in fact, he has become comfortable and covetous of money, he likes smoking weed, and has people in his life from whom he draws at least some level of enjoyment. He might sort of wish he had anhedonia, to give himself more cred as a writer...but he doesn't have it.

Bobby, like a lot of people, is more infatuated with the idea of being a writer, than with the job of being a writer, the reality of it, and this realization is starting to dawn on him. That inner conflict is interesting to me, because I'm a writer and I've spent years, even decades, wallowing in the tepid waters of my own self-delusion...but I don't know how interesting it would be to others unless Barrett added some violence or adultery or some other kind of urgency into this story. 

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