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Showing posts from October, 2016

New Yorker Fiction Review #150: "Two Men Arrive in a Village" by Zadie Smith

From the June 6 &13, 2016 Issue...

The coming of a New Yorker "Fiction" issue fills me with dread, and it shouldn't. Why dread? Because, since I'm always behind in writing my reviews (and even if I weren't) I have no hope of being able to read every story let alone review and write about each one. And this makes me feel a little remiss in my mission, and also makes it impossible for me to say I've reviewed every piece of fiction in the NYer for the past however many years I've been doing this. But I digress...

Funny that the one story I should pick to review from this last June's fiction review is another meta masterpiece, this one by one of the greatest living writers working in the English language: Zadie Smith. "Two Men Arrive in a Village" is a story that could happen in any village, in any politically unstable country, anywhere in the world and, as acknowledged by the meta-subtext of the story, has been happening for years.

What hap…

New Yorker Fiction Review #149: "Fable" by Charles Yu

From the May 30, 2016 Issue...

Listening to this story (I lost my May 30th issue; imagine that) today, I felt 100% sure I had read something by Charles Yu before. The dark, highly "meta" story of a guy whose shrink asks him to make up a fable which helps him to understand his own life better, just sounded all too familiar. But I guess I was wrong. Or else, perhaps, Yu sort of accomplished his goal in "Fable" which might have been to tell timeless story in a new way.

In any event, it was a pretty damn decent story. You get a pretty different experience listening to a story vs. reading one. And, though listening is easier and, if we're being seriously academic here, the original and perhaps true way that stories were communicated, I find the stories don't lend themselves to examination in the same way.

At times I felt a bit tired by all the stops and starts between the multiple layers of story here, but I do appreciate the way the main character was able to u…

New Yorker Fiction Review #148: "The Midnight Zone" by Lauren Groff

Lauren Groff seems to be obsessed by the thoughts and demons that can assault the brain of an adult, particularly a parent/mother at night. At least, that's what I gather from my sample size of two New Yorker stories (see TGCB's review of "Ghosts and Empties") in which Groff's characters go through mental gauntlets at night, much as we all do on the occasional sleepless night.

Groff got a little closer to the bone in "Ghosts and Empties," however, than here.With "The Midnight Zone" we weren't in her drowsy, head-trauma disoriented head for long enough to feel what she was feeling. In fact, I think the whole story is a bit of a tease in the sense that she brings up the tantalizing possibility of a Florida Panther stalking around the cabin in the night, and then never has the character confront the panther, or the other way around. That's as bad as having a gun on the mantle during a stage play and never having anyone use it.

There are m…

How to Pack Light

I've spent basically the past four months of my life living out of a suitcase, and here's what I've learned about packing light:

1.) You need about 1/5th the amount of clothes you think you'll need.

2.) Conversely, you need about 1.5x the amount of underwear and socks you think you'll need.

3.) Any time you are staying somewhere with a laundry machine...do some laundry. Even pay-up for the hotel's $15 laundry service if you have to. Bring stuff that can be washed and dried without shrinkage concerns.

4.) Bring only your All-Star clothes, the clothes you feel the most confident in, that clothes that are the most stylish, the most versatile, and the most durable. Traveling is not a time for your minor league items.

4.b) If you look good, no one will notice if you wear the same clothes a few days in a row. And if they do, just shrug your shoulders and say: "What can I say...I'm on the road!"

5.) A good pair of shoes can class-up just about any outfit…

Short Story Review: "O" by Robert Boswell

Issue: October 2016 Issue of The Atlantic

Story: "O" by Robert Boswell

Rating: $

Review: I like keeping tabs on the short fiction in magazines other than The New Yorker, especially when it's short, pithy, and good, like this one from Robert Boswell. Boswell is a new one on me but apparently he's pretty widely-published, at least within a certain realm of literature. I'd be interested to hear from anyone with any kind of opinion of his work.

This story, titled simply O, reminds me a lot of the movie Babel (2006), which basically highlighted the ways that the accumulated dysfunction and alienation of modern-day individuals adds up to a colossal web of dysfunction and craziness that we call "the modern world." Somewhat fund to read, much like it's "fun" to watch a disaster movie or experience schadenfreude; you're just glad its not happening to you. The thing is, the way Boswell sees the world...all of this craziness and dysfunction is happe…

New Yorker Fiction Review #147: "A Life of Adventure and Delight" by Akhil Sharma

Issue: May 16, 2016

Story: "A Life of Adventure and Delight" by Akhil Sharma

Rating: $/Meh

Review: Second time I've heard from Akhil Sharma in the pages of the New Yorker fiction section, and while my memory is foggy about "We Didn't Like Him" (even reading my own review doesn't help (hey, it was three years ago)) I know that I didn't like this story too much better.

The main character Gautama isn't very likable, in fact he sounds kind of like a prick. I understand that he's dealing with some elements of sexual repression he's been saddled with through no fault of his own, other than that of being born Indian and having moved to the U.S.

What Sharma seems to have shown us here is the thin end of the wedge of a growing habit of sexual deviance that will likely continue all throughout Gautama's marriage to Nirmala, a socially-appropriate mate whom he begins to court during the story.

I don't know. Doesn't seem like anything ground…