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Showing posts from August, 2018

New Yorker Fiction Review #206: "Ways and Means" by Sana Krasikov

Review of a short story from the August 27, 2018 issue of The New Yorker...

It took me a page or two to really get into this ultimately compelling look at the #metoo movement from a perspective I've personally not heard yet, that of a woman who actually sympathizes with one of the perpetrators of the sexual misconduct.

In this story, the main character, Hal (female) is the former and still currently the co-worker of Oliver, a celebrity of sorts at the public radio station where they work. Oliver has become the target of not only a number of accusations of sexual misconduct from female co-workers, but now an official investigation by an outside agency and the implied threat of actual charges. Oliver calls Hal to apologize for anything that he's done and also to ask her to give a deposition on his behalf. Most of the story is spent inside Hal's head as she struggles with whether to do so. She finally agrees but then has a change of heart when a certain additional piece of in…

New Yorker Fiction Review #205: "A Refugee Crisis" by Callan Wink

Review of a short story from the August 20, 2018 issue of The New Yorker...

While I liked Callan Wink's voice at certain points, I've got to give this story a great big "meh." Seems to me like Wink is just taking some scenes from his life that are lying around and turning them into "fiction." In fact, his main character even says as much in the story.

You see, not only is this story about a writer, but it's about a writer writing about a writer. How mind-numbingly post-modern and navel-gazy can you get? The writer in this story is living in Montana, working (or trying to work) on a book while his former girlfriend, just returned from working at a refugee camp in Greece, languishes around his house cooking curries, watching movies on her laptop, and taking it easy before she gets an abortion (she was pregnant by a refugee she met in one of the camps).

I suppose this kind of story has to exist, but sometimes I don't understand why. I think a lot of wr…

New Yorker Fiction Review #204: "Christina the Astonishing (1150 - 1224)" by Kristin Valdez Quade

Review of a short story from the July 31, 2017 issue of The New Yorker...

Interesting concept for a short story here as Kristin Valdez Quade takes a first-person observer approach to the life of Saint Christina the Astonishing, a woman from what is now Belgium who supposedly died at age 21 and then came back to life and lived another 50 or so odd years, roaming the countryside and apparently hurling accusations and prophesies at people.

This story is told through the eyes of Christina's older sister, Mara, who watches as Christina grows from troublesome infant, to moody, seemingly-possessed child, and then watches as she dies the first time and is resurrected.

As the main character struggles to understand and cope with her sister's condition (which today we'd probably have a medical name for) the story really becomes about how we love our family members in spite of not being able to understand them and, very often, feeling distant from the people we should feel closest too…

New Yorker Fiction Review #203: "Displaced" by Richard Ford

Review of a short story from the August 6 & 13, 2018 issue of The New Yorker...
(I normally do these short story reviews in chronological order, but two things have happened: a.) I've fallen more than a year behind, b.) I started subscribing to the print edition of the magazine again. Meaning, as I am getting caught up on past editions, I will be reviewing the short stories in the current issues of The New Yorker...until I get behind on those again, too...)
I'd hesitate to call Richard Ford one of the "giants" of American letters -- a title I dole out pretty liberally -- but most serious American readers will recognize him as the author of that great piece of American middle-aged existential angst, The Sportswriter
I liked The Sportswriter so much that after I read the last page I literally turned back to the front page and started the book over again. Such was the power of Richard Ford's insights into life, careers, middle-aged post-divorce romance, etc. B…

New Yorker Fiction Review #202: "Everything is Far from Here" by Cristina Henriquez

Review of a short story from the July 24, 2017 issue of The New Yorker...

"Everything is Far from Here" is not light reading. The story tackles one of the great geopolitical issues of our time: illegal/undocumented immigration. It's pretty difficult to comment on this story without getting into deep essay on immigration policy, which I'm not prepared to do right now.

In general, I am not in favor of tackling huge political issues in fiction, although it's been done for centuries and will continue to be done as long as we have books. I feel as though, if you have a political statement to make, you should write an essay. Granted, I'm sure just about anyone could argue against this and tell me that some number (any number) of my favorite novels have deep political statements. Fine.

As a "story" in and of itself, "Everything is Far from Here" was extremely compelling. The close third-person perspective and the "carousel" type of feel…

New Yorker Fiction Review #201: "Caring for Plants" by Hye-yung Pyun

Review of a short story from the July 10 & 17, 2017 issue of The New Yorker...
If you're going to read a painfully depressing short story, it's best if it be really short, unlike "Caring for Plants" by Hye-yung Pyun, which weighs-in at approximately 7,000 words. The subject matter of this story, the main character, is a man named Oghi who is recovering after a tragic car accident which left him paralyzed from the waist down and his wife dead.
Oghi watches as his mother-in-law (does every Asian short story have to have a mean mother-in-law in it?), grieving over the loss of her only child, Oghi's wife, takes over more and more facets of his life, firing his caregiver, then his physical therapist, then his psycho-therapist, then -- so Oghi thinks -- gradually attempting to poison him. 
Reading this story was like being held under water. I don't think I can remember reading many stories after which I felt such sheer relief that it was over. You might say th…

Steel Cup Coffee Roasters Certified Organic Honduras Light Roast

This is why I love living in the 21st century. There's a small-batch, source-to-store, organic coffee roasting company right here in Pittsburgh, Pa. What's next? Driver-less cars??

Bought this bag of coffee in Whole Foods recently. I shop at Whole Foods when I get tired of saving too much money shopping at Giant Eagle or Aldi, and decide I want to spend $75 for one bag of groceries. On the plus side, you get introduced to things like Steel Cup Coffee Roasters.

I like Central American coffee for the dry, crisp, delicately acidic flavors. This bag of Honduran coffee fits the bill but is missing just a little something in the flavor department, which I'm not quite sure doesn't have to do with my brewing method. With light roast, you can't expect any of the smoky, tongue-rasping boldness you might get in other types of coffee. No, the Central American light roast, particularly this one from Steel Cup, is an oil-free, smooth, low-acidity coffee with just a bit of that …