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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.


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