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Showing posts from November, 2018

New Yorker Fiction Review #212: "The Rise and Rise of Annie Clark" by John L'Heureux

Review of a short story from the Oct. 8, 2018 issue of The New Yorker...

Lots of people occasionally struggle with the ordinariness of daily life, a feeling of being unappreciated, or feeling like the entire course of their life has gone wrong at some point and wanting to completely change things or escape. I mean....so I'm told.

Anyway, it takes a pretty skilled writer to make that kind of inner struggle seem interesting, relatable, and even funny, and do that in a short story. John L'Heureux does it here with "The Rise and Rise of Annie Clark."

Haven't read anything by this guy since back in Sept. 2016 and apparently he had two stories in The New Yorker this year, the other one of which I haven't gotten around to reading yet cause I'm so far behind.

Book Review: Wind, Sand, and Stars (1939) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I liked this book so much I don't even know where to begin. Hell, I don't even know if I have the language right now, at this moment, to properly express the impression this book has made upon me. I don't think I've ever, ever felt so deeply spoken-to by a book in my life.

You may recognize the name Antoine de Saint-Exupery as the author of the legendary children's book The Little Prince. This book, Wind, Sand and Stars, however, is not a children's book. On the contrary, it is very much a book for grown adults. It is a deeply philosophical, almost haunting examination of the human spirit and the human condition, set over the back-drop of Exupery's adventures flying with the French air-mail service or Aeropostale in the 1920s and 1930s.

This book is essentially a collection of autobiographical stories about Exupery's and his comrades adventures and mis-adventures in the early days of aviation. We're talking about the days when airplanes did not eve…

New Yorker Fiction Review #211: "When We Were Happy We Had Other Names" by Yiyun Lee

Review of a short story from the Oct. 1, 2018 issue of The New Yorker...

It took me two full read-throughs to fully understand this rudderless, un-anchored whirlpool of names and memories and flimsy characterizations. And I still can't say much about it other than: if I weren't on a mission to read and review all of these stories, I'd have completely forgotten I ever read this one.

There are as many reasons to not connect with an author or a story as reasons to connect with a particular author or story. Maybe it's the time of day when we read the story, or the subject matter, or something going on within us, or we compare it to the last thing we read, or the story mentions the color "blue" and we just had an accident with a blue car. Whatever. No offense to Yiyun Lee but I just did not connect with this one. Short stories like this one make my New Yorker reviewing project a real slog. And I don't like slogs.

New Yorker Fiction Review #210: "Poor Girl" by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Review of a short story from the Sept. 24, 2018 issue of The New Yorker...

I read this story a while ago now and, unfortunately, not much sticks out about it except the author's portrayal of a small family in Russia that gets broken because of the father's inattention to his wife's emotional needs and his ( seemingly inappropriate) over-attention to their daughter.

This is a pretty straight-line, Point A to Point B type of story, which I appreciate and, in fact, stories like this can "teach" you a lot more about humanity sometimes -- or the author's view of humanity -- than in-depth character studies that take pages and pages (maybe hundreds of pages) to unfold.

That said, I found this story mostly forgettable.

New Yorker Fiction Review #209: "Cecilia Awakened" by Tessa Hadley

Review of a short story from the Sept. 17th issue of The New Yorker...

Tessa Hadley short stories are always well-crafted but usually bore the living sh*t out of me. Sorry. This one was different, for some reason. Maybe I'm just getting used to her style or learning to appreciate it, or something?

Her stories are usually about the inner lives of pensive, wispy, pre-teenage or teenage girls, a subject matter and character type not particularly close to my heart. But in "Ceclia Awakened" she manages to really accurately capture the awkwardness of an emerging teenager and -- most importantly -- the awkwardness she inflicts upon her older-than-average parents, by upsetting the delicate balance of their relationship with her while on a family trip to Italy.

There is something very rich and vivid about the details Tessa Hadley presents in the story, the way she captures the changes that go on inside Cecilia's inner world and how those changes lead to actions her parents st…