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Showing posts from April, 2019

Ella Vos at Brooklyn Steel

Saw Ella Vos the other night at a cool indie venue in Brooklyn called Brooklyn Steel. I had zero idea who Ella Vos was until a few days before that when I literally googled "Live music NYC," listened to a couple of her songs on YouTube, and figured I would be safe committing to spend an evening (only about a half hour, as it turned out) listening to her music. I've spent enough time reviewing music in my life that I can sniff out a promising indie artist pretty quickly.

Usually I don't go for the soulful singer-songwriter kind of stuff. You know..."one dude and his guitar" that kind of thing. But Ella Vos is more hip-hop influenced and electronic than that. And she rocked pretty hard, so...thumbs up. I'll be checking out her album.

New Yorker Fiction Review #227: "Acceptance Journey" by Mary Gaitskill

Review of a short story from the Dec. 24 & 31, 2018 issue of The New Yorker...

As I read more and more short stories, I start to notice them falling into categories or types. What type of story is "Acceptance Journey"? This short story is definitely a "Middle-aged Person Going Through a Difficult Time and Looking For Redemption in a Kooky Way" story.

That said, I have to say I liked the world Mary Gaitskill created here and I think she did a lot in a relatively short amount of space. She takes good care to create and decorate the main character's world with an interesting back story and interesting players. It's just that, frankly, the story didn't have much of an effect on me.


New Yorker Fiction Review #226: "Time for the Eyes to Adjust" by Linn Ullmann

Review of a short story from the Dec. 17, 2018 issue of The New Yorker...

I'm glad that I did not know Linn Ullmann is the daughter of Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman before I read this story. In fact, I probably wouldn't have even been able to pinpoint exactly who Ingmar Bergman was before I looked up Linn Ullmann's bio just a few moments ago. So it likely wouldn't have mattered anyway...

...except it would have meant that her story "Time for the Eyes to Adjust" is less a work of fiction and more a work of creative non-fiction. To me this fact lessens the achievement of this story, but not by much.

What we have here (translated from Norwegian) is an intricate, careful, and finely-tuned piece of memoir-ish fiction from what would appear to be a master writer, or else a master translator. Shout out to Thilo Reinhard (I'm lately of a mind that translators deserve more credit than they get).

Minus the father who is a famous film director (in the actual

New Yorker Fiction Review #225: "Chaunt" by Joy Williams

Review of a short story from the Dec. 10, 2018 issue of The New Yorker...

It's been long enough since I've read a Joy Williams story that I've long-since forgotten how boring I found her writing. And then "Chaunt" comes along and totally disorients me and makes me look at her writing differently.

"Chaunt" is a spectral, anxious, and eerie piece of fiction, so laden with submerged context that it could just as well be part of a 300 page novel. In this story, Joy Williams inhabits the fragile, wounded mind of a woman living in an old-folks home in the desert long before she should be living in an old-folks home, in an effort to escape from a tragedy that took her young son's life.

The story is set in the desert, but even so the environment in "Chaunt" is one of a dying, poisoned and barren dessert.

"Night was best, for, as everyone knows but does not tell, the sobbing of the earth is most audible at night. You can hear it clearly then, b…

New Yorker Fiction Review #224: "Dandelion" by Lore Segal

Review of a short story from the Mar. 25, 2019 issue of The New Yorker...

In this rather short story, Lore Segal takes "meta-fiction" to a level I've personally never encountered before, taking a story she herself wrote in her 20s (she is now 91 years old) and sort of re-visiting and re-writing it in order to smooth out what she perceives as over-wrought turns of phrase and inaccurate metaphors.

In the very first line of the story she excuses herself for this by telling us that Henry James rewrote some of his early work when he himself became old. Does one need an excuse or a reason to write a story in a particular way? In my opinion, the answer is No. And the immediate breaking of the literary "fourth wall" here -- both letting us know that this was going to be a story within a story and also letting us know she had "permission" to do this because Henry James did it -- served as an unnecessary prologue to what was actually a pleasant little amuse bou…