Skip to main content

New Yorker Fiction Review #142: "The Burglar" by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum

Issue: April 11, 2016

Story: "The Burglar" by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum

Rating: $

Review: I'll give this story points for form; it is told in rotating, close-third person perspective, alternating between three different points of view, with every new paragraph. It's a good (a damn good) trick to keep modern-day readers like me, with short attention spans, closely engaged in the story. And it worked, even though the story itself is less than compelling.

Not going to get too involved in a plot summary. It's about a burglar, a T.V. show writer, and the T.V. show writer's wife, and how the wife gets caught-up in the plot of the T.V. show the writer is working on (meta enough for you you?? Zzzzz...). Or perhaps the whole thing is part of the T.V. show? I don't know and I don't really want to take the time to dig further.

If the whole point here was to create a fun piece of meta-fiction...then Bynum almost did that, but not quite. I was engaged by the story-telling technique, but the story itself didn't quite get off the ground in my opinion. There wasn't enough at stake. The characters weren't interesting enough. And seemed chosen at random. Or something. If I really thought about it I'm sure there are carefully drawn racial, social, and gender implications laced throughout the whole mess, but I'd rather not think about it too much. This particular story isn't worth it.

Single "$" because I was really drawn in by the technique. I think if the material were a little better, or the stakes greater, or the resolution stronger, I might have liked it more.


Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Apologizer" by Milan Kundera

Issue: May 4, 2015

Rating: $$

Review: It took me five years and three separate attempts to finish Milan Kundera's famous novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but in spite of that, quotes and insights from that book still rattle round my head on a weekly basis. What I mean to say is: my feelings on Kundera are very similar to my feelings on Haruki Murakami. I enjoy reading his work, but in small doses, like this short story.

Like Murakami, Kundera uses elements of magical realism, but where in a Murakami story you might encounter a flying dolphin or a disappearing hotel or a person who has lived his whole life in the same room, refusing to leave, Kundera's magical realism offers more direct insights and perspective on real life.

In Kundera's worlds, time and space are malleable and everything that ever happened in history is happening at the same time, and the narrator is a completely omniscient, caring, witty, and hands-on god-like being.

And so it is with "The Apo…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Meet the President!" by Zadie Smith

Each week I review the short fiction from a recent issue of The New Yorker. If you told me when I was 12 that I'd be doing this I'd have been like, "Dork. There's no such thing as blogs," and I'd have been right...

Issue: Aug. 12 & 19, 2013

Story: "Meet the President!"

Author:Zadie Smith

(Please note: I've developed a highly sophisticated grading system, which I'll be using from now on.  Each story will now receive a Final Grade of either READ IT or DON'T READ it. See the bottom of the review for this story's grade...after you've read the review, natch.)

Plot: Set in England, far into the future (lets say 2113) a privileged youth of 15, named Bill Peek, encounters a few poor villagers from a small, abandoned coastal town on the southeast shore. He meets a little girl named Aggie, who is going to her sister's funeral. Peek is cut-off from real life by a sophisticated video game system that is implanted in his head, therefore th…

A Piece of Advice I Learned From My Grandfather

My grandfather was one of the most learned men I know. He read widely and voraciously, and not just in the sciences (he was a doctor); he loved politics, philosophy, and great literature as well. Whenever he finished a book he would write his thoughts about the book in the front cover and then sign and date it. To this day every once in a while I will open a book from my bookshelf or my mother's bookshelf, or at one of my family members' homes, and there will be my grandfather's handwriting. He was also a great giver of his books; if you remarked that you liked a particular one or wanted to read it, you were almost sure to take it home with you.

Reading is a very solitary pursuit but my grandfather was not a solitary person. He relished having family and friends around him which is convenient because he was blessed with a lot of both. And he carried out his intellectual life in a very "public" way as well. He was, in some ways, an intellectual evangelist. If he r…