Skip to main content

New Yorker Fiction Review #154: "The King's Teacup at Rest" by Michael Andreasen

From the July 11 & 18, 2016 issue...

I love a good double issue of The New Yorker, not only because I am always way behind on my short story reviewing and the double-issue jumps me ahead two weeks, but because.... Actually that's the only reason.

First exposure to Michael Adreasen. In his story about an imaginary king who presides over dead amusement parks -- His Royal Highness the King of Retired Amusements -- I can't help but feel the strong influence of George Saunders and a certain type of 90s absurdism which, in my opinion, doesn't quite resonate any more.

The juxtaposition of a medieval-style king with this haughty title and his use of the Royal "We" up against the sad uselessness of a long-since shut down amusement park is funny, don't get me wrong. Like when the king gets a stomach ache from eating one of the park's leftover hot dogs, or when his servants try to operate the pirate ship ride so that he can "feel the rock of the waves...know the kiss of the wind."

Gradually we see that, in reality, the king is trying to get over the fact that his wife, The Queen, left with his royal engineer, Rudy Vermiglia, and her memory comes back to him as he skulks through the sad husk of an amusement park with his cadre of servants.

I get what Andreasen was trying to do here, and it's actually a cool idea. Who hasn't had a breakup, right? And also, everyone's been to an amusement park, even, probably, an old one, and felt the aura of joy mixed with sadness that exudes from a place and from objects that exist only for the momentary pleasure of the public. When you strip away the good times, and the public, even a brand-spanking-new amusement park looks a little lonely.

But yet, Andreasen lingers too long on the details of the world, and too much on the Scout's search for his people. In a short story, there is only time for so much digression, and Andreasen digresses way too much. My eyes glazed over more than a few times and I had to stop and ask myself: "Okay, where did I stop paying attention?" A bad sign, if not the absolute death knell of a piece of fiction or film.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review #151: "The Bog Girl" by Karen Russell

From the June 20 issue...

My loyal readers (if there are still any, which I doubt) will know I'm usually not a fan of Magical Realism, which, as you may also know, is Karen Russell's stock in trade. That said, there's nothing I love more than having my antipathy for magical realism shattered by an awesome story like "The Bog Girl."

Briefly, an Irish teenager discovers the body of a young woman who as been buried in a bog for over 2,000 years and begins to date her. What more do you need, right? If I'd read that one-line description somewhere else, and wasn't on a mission to review every New Yorker short story, I doubt I'd have read "The Bog Girl." But maybe I should start doing a George Costanza and do the opposite of everything I think I should do.

Where Russell succeeds here is in two main areas: 1.) Making us really love Cillian, the teenager who falls in love with the bog girl, and 2.) pulling the unbelievable trick making the characters…

Holiday Q&A, Volume 1

These questions come to us from Grace. Thanks for sending your questions!! Answers below:
What is the most thrilling mystery you have read and/or watched?
The Eiger Sanction (book and film) by Trevanian is what's coming to mind. International espionage. Mountain-climbing assassins. Evil albino masterminds. Sex. Not a bad combination. Warning, this is completely a "guy" movie, and the film (feat. Clint Eastwood) is priceless 70s action movie cheese. But in case that's your thing...
What's the deal with Narcos?
Narcos is a Netflix show about the rise and fall (but mostly the fall) of Columbian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. Thus far there are two seasons of 10 episodes each. RIYL: The film Blow, starring Johnny Depp; the book Zombie City, by Thomas Katz; the movie Goodfellas; true crime; anything involving the drug trade. My brief review: Season 1 started out a bit slow and I know a bunch of people who never made it past the first few episodes. Some of the acting is a…

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…