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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.


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