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Showing posts from July, 2018

New Yorker Fiction Review #200: "The Adventure of a Skier" by Italo Calvino

Review of a short story from the July 3, 2017 issue of The New Yorker... As an American of Italian descent, and a self-proclaimed man of letters, I am ashamed to admit that this is the very first thing I've ever read by Italo Calvino, an Italian writer who, at the time of his death in 1985 (so I just learned), was the most translated Italian contemporary writer. When I read a story like this one -- short, beautiful, ethereal, almost magical, and totally lacking in any kind of plot -- it makes me reflect very seriously on my own writing, in a way that would take pages and pages to properly unfold. So I won't get into it right now, but... In this story, Italo Calvino basically takes us for an hour's trip on the ski slopes of some region in northern Italy where, through the eyes of a pack of younger teenage boys, then narrowed down to one in particular, we watch a delightful vision of a young woman skiing alongside them. She remains at a distant remove until one of the

New Yorker Fiction Review #199: "The Piano Teacher's Pupil" by William Trevor

Review of a short story from the June 26th, 2017 issue of The New Yorker... Really hustling here to try and get caught up on my short story reviewing. I am still more than a year behind, but trying to do a couple reviews per week so that I can (hopefully?) get all the way caught up by the end of the year. The problem is that issues of The New Yorker just keep coming out . But as John Lennon said, "There are no problems, only solutions." I think back to the reasons why I started this project back in 2013. The primary reason was to read more short fiction and also so that I could be exposed to the best short fiction being written today, The New Yorker being one of the premier venues for the best of the best political, cultural, and literary writing in the English language. Secondarily, I wanted to hone my critical skills and consistently force myself to take a closer look at why certain pieces of writing resonate, what "works" about certain pieces of fiction

New Yorker Fiction Review #198: "It's a Summer Day" by Andrew Sean Greer

Review of a short story from the June 19th, 2017 issue of The New Yorker... A middle-aged writer travels to Italy to appear in an award ceremony -- for a literary prize he is not sure yet if he's won -- in order to get out of the country while his former lover is getting married. In the process, he reminisces about a love affair he had with a much older, an much more famous writer, who won the Pulitzer Prize while they were together. "It's a Summer Day" is a humorous and touching story about how our past lives, our past loves, continue to echo through our current lives, and also about our innate need for recognition, our need to be noticed, even if we know the attention is superficial. There is something very human, very honest, about Andrew Sean Greer's writing, at least in this story. It's always much easier to like a character when you can understand their baggage, understand what it is that weighs them down. And Greer reveal's the main characte

New Yorker Fiction Review #197: "Crossing the River No Name" by Will Mackin

Review of a short story from the June 5 & 12 issue of The New Yorker... A recognizable style -- whether it's in writing, music, art, film, fashion -- is the hallmark of a true professional. Five years ago, on this blog, I read and reviewed Will Mackin's short story "Kattekoppen," about the war in Afghanistan. It's a testament to the distinctiveness of Mackin's style and talent that, even five years on, reading this story, I thought back to "Kattekoppen" and knew, without even checking, that both stories had been written by the same author.  Will Mackin's material is war. Specifically, the war in Afghanistan. I've heard it said that it takes about eight to 10 years for really good writing about a war to start coming out, and Mackin has quickly positioned himself as one of the foremost bards to come out of the seemingly decade-long war in Afghanistan.  In "Crossing the River No Name," Mackin writes about being part

New Yorker Fiction Review #196: "The Size of Things" by Samantha Schweblin

Review of a short story from the May 29th, 2017 issue of The New Yorker... Yeah, I'm more than a year behind now. Well more than a year. Going to try and correct that over the summer months here, but... promises. This is an intriguing, sort of tragic story by Argentine writer Samantha Schweblin bearing some of the distinct hallmarks of good old Latin American magic realism, but there are no ghosts or spirits or flying witches or disappearing objects. Just a local rich kid (man) named Enrique Duvel who, in an attempt to escape his domineering mother, wanders into a local toy shop and becomes their live-in employee for a few weeks until his mother comes to collect him. All short stories should be this length, under 3,000 words that is. Nice, compact and easy to read in under 20 minutes or so; however, having said that, this particular story feels incomplete, feels like a story fragment rather than a complete tale. Perhaps a little bit more about Enrique Duvel and his

Movie Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor

Who was Mr. Fred Rogers... really? In this 21st century, internet-bound world we live in, everyone -- public figures at least -- seems to be masquerading as something else. That's why it's a huge relief to discover, thanks to the film  Won't You Be My Neighbor , that America's favorite and most lovable old man next door, Mr. Rogers, actually was what he was pretending to be: a kind, patient, sincere man who really cared about children and tried to make the world a better place. Imagine that! Other things you will learn about Mr. Rogers in this film: Mr. Rogers was not , as goes the urban myth, in the Navy or any other branch of the military ...did not have arms covered in tattoos ...was trained to be a Presbyterian minister before going to work for WQED in Pittsburgh ...was not gay ...had a wife and two sons (which is really bizarre to think about for some reason, I don't know why) ...started working with hand-puppets on live TV broadcasts as a