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Showing posts from December, 2019

New Yorker Fiction Review #235: "Arizona" by John Edgar Wideman

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

This story is so multi-layered and complex that I did something I rarely do with short stories in The New Yorker: I read it twice. I'm a firm believer that if a story truly "works" on it's own, you should be able to feel it's full impact (whatever that is) on the first reading. Not that we shouldn't go back and re-read things, or even study them in-depth, but I feel like no writer should be so pretentious or disrespectful of their readers' time as to assume the reader will go back and re-read or study the work in order to find the "deeper" meaning or "get it." On the other hand, sometimes a story is packed with so much meaning and texture that it simply demands to be read again. Such is the case with "Arizona," by John Edgar Wideman.

This story is written in the form of a letter to Freddie Jackson (yes, Michael Jackson's brother) but is really "…

New Yorker Fiction Review #234: "Old Hope" by Clare Sestanovich

Review of a short story from the Dec. 9, 2019 issue of The New Yorker...
I'm always happy to see The New Yorker publishing fiction from young, relatively unknown authors. Clare Sestanovich has been published in The Atlantic and Electric Literature (and, it should be mentioned, is a member of The New Yorker's editorial staff (which makes me feel only slightly queasy)). I'm not sure if that qualifies her as "known" in the literary world, but safe to say, unlike for a lot of the literary titans published in The New Yorker, who've already earned their seat at the table, this publication has probably altered the course of her literary career. 
I'm not quite sure how I feel about this story, frankly. There's a lot going on in the pages of "Old Hope," namely, well... old hope. But also a very "familiar" seeming main character, stuck in an odd mid-20s funk (which some of us know about; others, maybe not). She doesn't know what she wan…