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New Yorker Fiction Review #145: "Choking Victim" by Alexandra Kleeman

Issue: May 2, 2016

Story: "Choking Victim" by Alexandra Kleeman

Rating: $$$

Review: Were there but world enough and time...I could read this story three times and ruminate on it for a week and then come up with a trenchant, thoughtful, incisive critique that would make you want to run out and read this story. Instead, you're left with the following bullet point listing of my rambling, sleepy thoughts as I sit stuffed from the enormous pork chop and handful of vieux carre's (it's a cocktail...get with it) I had at Meat and Potatoes tonight, and as I try and get caught-up on my New Yorker reviewing, a hopeless, thankless, and ultimately at this point impossible task:

  • This story is a sort of tableaux depicting a day in the life of a lonely, alienated, 30-something stay at home mom raising her first infant, and a portrayal which I think would resonate with anyone who has had to raise a child, but mostly with mothers. 
  • Also a meditation on facing early-middle age (early 30s) and the baggage one brings to the table of parenting by that point.
  • The past two stories seem to deal with Manhattan; this story is set in some other city, but feels like a very "New York" story, probably because of the aforesaid alienation and the whole notion of urban parenthood. Just seems like a thinly disguised New York.
  • A cinematic story, so much so that I almost feel the author translating images as she sees them in her head, in the potential movie, onto the page, rather than organically from the character herself. A subtle, yet important distinction. Therefore, although Karen felt three dimensional, she did not feel like a character in control of her own impulses and actions, I felt as though even the character herself was "acting" out what the author wanted her to do. Maybe, in some weird way, that was the point? Maybe Karen herself was acting out the process of being a young mother in her early 30s, unsure what to do next or how to feel? If that was intentional, then Kleeman pulled off something really wonderful and deft here. And, even if it wasn't, the effect is the same. Three $$$ and a promise to come back and re-read this when I have time. Ha.

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