Skip to main content

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

Image result for JOseph O'Neill 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" I get about literature and thus the more I enjoy it. As such, I am not a big fan of fiction in which the writers whine and kvetch about the political situation in this country or write stories that snarkily pat themselves on the back for being superior to the masses of the unwashed who appreciate popular culture. Yes, these kinds of writers still exist, in spite of the fact that obsessing over and glorifying Pop Culture has become almost a religion most people, whether they're in the Arts, Academia, or wherever. It's just, you know, people like to cast aspersions on whatever forms of popular culture they don't happen to pray to.

That said, O'Neill is making a legitimate kvetch in this story: that there are hundreds, if not thousands of actual poets who deserved the Nobel Prize much more than Bob Dylan. Something I can't help but agree with, and I'm even a Bob Dylan fan.

My point is...tell me story, for f**ks sake. Don't write a pouty, broody meditation on a subject that's important to a hopelessly small sliver of an already small population, and try to get away with it by using third person voice instead of your own. Or whatever, do what the hell you wanna do; your short story is published in The New Yorker Fiction Section, ergo at some point you must have written something decent. So...try again, old sport.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review #146: "Three Short Moments in a Long Life" by John L'Heureux

Issue: May 9, 2016

Story: "Three Short Moments in a Long Life" by John L'Heureux

Rating: $

Review: I feel like this is a somewhat tired technique, straight out of Creative Writing 101: write a story consisting of three or four different snapshots or snippets out of a character's life at different ages, sort of like a series of written photographs. Fun perhaps, but strikes me as a bit amateurish. However, I also think L'Heureux succeeds here by pushing it a bit further, playing with the character's tentative attempts at something close to faith -- in childish, adult, and mature adult ways -- and tying all three "Short Moments" together in a subtle and readily decipherable way.

L'Heureux's prose and his frank humor and his ability to glorify and find the meaning in the mundane events and thoughts of every day life, and thereby turn the life of an ordinary person into a drama with meaning and significance puts me in mind of John Irving. As well a…

Water Review: San Pellegrino 250ml Bottle

Damn you, tiny little bottle of San Pellegrino. So little. So cute. But what are you really good for other than to make me wish I had a full bottle of Pellegrino? 
Good as a palate cleanser after a nice double espresso, I will give it that. But little else. The suave yet chaotic burst of Pellegrino bubbliness is still there, but with each sip you feel the tragedy of being that much closer to the end of the bottle, that much faster.

This is a bottle of water made specifically for the frustrated, for the meticulous, for the measurers among us with a penchant for the dainty. This water does not love you in the wild, on a sunny porch or with the raucous laughter of friends. No...much the opposite. Whatever that may be.

Best drunk in tiny, tiny sips, while forcing oneself through an unreadable and depressing Russian novel one does not want to read but feels one should, on a cold, wet day in December that promises four months of gloom and depression...or in pairs or threes and poured over …

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…