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Showing posts from May, 2017

Review: Death of a Salesman, starring Zach Grenier, at the O'Reilly Theater (Pittsburgh)

Most of the works of fiction and theater that are closest to my heart are those that I read or saw first in my high school years. Not sure why this is, except that I had a couple outstanding literature teachers at the Linsly School -- specific shout-outs to Mssrs. Robert Hunter and Robert Fisher -- who breathed life into such American classics like Death of a Salesman at a time when my mind was more supple and impressionable than it is now and (perhaps more importantly) I had more time to pore over works of literature and absorb them. For this reason I have always had a soft spot for Death of a Salesman , by Arthur Miller...and also because it's a fantastic play. What's amazing when you go back and re-read or re-watch something that you were first exposed to as a teenager is how differently it resonates with you. Reading this play at age 17 meant something completely different to me than watching it 20 years later. At 17 I pitied and even scoffed at the desperate charact

New Yorker Fiction Review #175: "Spiderweb" by Mariana Enriquez

Review of a short story from the Dec. 19 & 26, 2016 issue of The New Yorker... This story, "Spiderweb," by Mariana Enriquez, combines a lot of what is great about Latin American fiction -- mysticism, the gothic, a deep mistrust of authority -- without the overdoses of magical realism that I've never particularly been able to get on board with. In this story, a young Argentine woman, her husband, and her neice, all take a trip into Paraguay (which sits on Argentina's northeastern border), have some car trouble, get spooked by some Paraguayan soldiers, and the main character's husband walks off into the night inexplicably. In the meantime while all this is happening, the main character laments the fact that she's married the wrong person. In fact, if nothing else, the story is a pitch-perfect glimpse into the psychology of someone trapped in a relationship with someone they've come to loathe. The main character's desperate wish that when sh

Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina (Pittsburgh)

Let's start with the good stuff first: Great atmosphere. Ate at this restaurant on a beautiful spring evening recently, out on their side patio, with a nice view overlooking the North Side of Pittsburgh. It has a great rustic yet contemporary South American feel.  Great menu. If you're a meat-lover you'll have tons of options (after all parrilla means grill in Spanish) at Gaucho Parrilla Argentina. So many great steak-based dishes, one trip is not nearly enough.  Now, to the kvetches: Bad logistical setup.  Gaucho Parrilla Argentina has chosen to eschew the normal restaurant format of "sit down, order the meal, have someone bring it to you, eat" in favor of the format of "stand in line for 30 minutes and order at the counter" format. I don't know why this seemed like a good idea to them, but I can personally attest that I never even encountered this style of restaurant when I was in Argentina myself. So...idk what's up here.  Port

New Yorker Fiction Review #174: "Pardon Edward Snowden"

Review of a short story from the Dec. 12, 2016 issue of The New Yorker... This is a short story about a poet (meta) who gets asked to sign a petition regarding Edward Snowden. The petition is in the form of a poem -- called, in the story, a "poetician" -- and in the story the poet, Mark McClain thinks to himself: "...why not just have a petition in the form of a petition? Why drag the poem into the muck?" Well...I might ask Joseph O'Neill why, if he wants to make a grandiose statement about the purity of the poetic art form, the noble struggles of the unheralded keepers of the flame of "real" poetry, about what a travesty it is that Bob Dylan got the Noble Prize for Literature, then drag this short story into the muck, why not just write an essay about it? The essay would have been far more entertaining, intersting, and convincing than this insipid and pretentious piece of "fiction." The older I get, the less and less "serious&qu

International Soccer Star Zlatan Ibrahimovic Treated at UPMC

Rarely do the worlds of top-level international football and the city of Pittsburgh collide but...apparently, Swedish soccer legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic had knee surgery this week at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and is still here in town recovering. Granted, for all the actual impact this has on my life, he might as well be having surgery on Mars. But what kind of football fan would I be if the news that one of the all-time legends of the sport was being treated in my town -- hell, in my neighborhood -- didn't make me at least a little bit excited. For those of you who don't know, Zlatan is a living legend and one of the most prolific goal-scorers in soccer history, having put more than 400 balls into the back of the onion bag in his professional career, a career which started when he was 17, with Malmo FF. He has since played for the likes of AFC Ajax, Juventus FC, FC Internazionale Milano, FC Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris St-Germain FC, and currently Manchest