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New Yorker Fiction Review #238: "Super Goat Man" by Jonathan Lethem

Review of a short story from the Dec. 30, 2019 Archival Issue of The New Yorker (reprinted from the April 5, 2004 issue)...

I kept this particular issue of The New Yorker around solely because of this story by the great Jonathan Lethem and I'm glad I did. The genius of this story is how Jonathan Lethem writes about an ex-hippie, half-man/half-goat who used to be a minor super hero but now teaches literature, almost as though goat people and aging, over-the-hill super heroes were part of every day life. In a story such as this, you can't help but expect an undertone of humor, but Lethem manages to keep it subtle and focus on the essential, driving narrative of the story: a young man looking back with mixed emotions on an enigmatic, mysterious -- as turns out, charismatic -- presence who haunted him over several epochs of his life.

Come to think of it, I don't even really know what this story is about. But it's funny, intelligent, and has an ex-hippie, half-man/half-goat…

The Orvis Clearwater fly rod (103-4)

This is the first time I've ever reviewed a fly-fishing rod on my blog. Because I just realized it's the first time I've ever actually had to buy a fly rod. My father bought me or passed down to me every fly rod I've ever owned. But as I've moved beyond his tutelage I've now had to supplement his very impressive rod collection -- and my own -- with an Orvis Clearwater 10 foot / 3 weight / 4 piece rod.

I bought this rod because I have been trying to get the hang of Euro-nymphing, and the consensus of everyone to whom I looked for advice seemed to be that this size of rod was best because it's long enough to get your leader and nymphs way out into the stream, and yet the light weight makes it sensitive enough to feel the fish biting. 
Overall:
A great rod for the money. I spent about $205.00 on this rod, including shipping. While Orvis may not be the best or most cutting edge supplier of fly-fishing gear, you can pretty much always rely on their products, they…

New Yorker Fiction Review #237: "Kid Positive" by Adam Levin

Review of a short story from the March 2, 2020 issue of The New Yorker...

I wouldn't call this a "story" so much as a pastiche, or collage; a bunch of independent but related, stand-alone pieces sewn together to accomplish an overall goal. In this case, the goal is to contrast the writer's own childhood -- in which he was at turns conniving, bullying, violent, and self-obsessed -- with what he perceives (now, as an adult) to be the state of modern childhood, in which, at least in his mind, children seem far more innocent and pure-hearted than he ever was.

I don't know if this piece "works" in the sense it was intended to work, as a broader statement on 80s childhood vs. modern day childhood. We all know that childhood looked pretty different in the 80s than it does today. Even given the way memory distorts things, there were certain basic differences: no computers or cell phones, and no bike helmets, for starters. The world was a lot less "connecte…

New Yorker Fiction Review #236: "With the Beatles" by Haruki Murakami

Review of a short story from the Feb. 17 & 24 issue of The New Yorker...

Sometimes I look back and marvel at the fact I was able to read and review every short story in The New Yorker for about five years. Sometimes it was a real chore, but I managed to do it. Then, somewhere in 2018 (or maybe 2017? A man loses track...), I missed a bunch of issues and gave myself "permission" to skip them and just start back up again with the current issue. Well, once you open the floodgates, things are never the same again. I will never have time to go back and read/review all the stories that I've missed, nor will I -- probably ever again -- make this project such a priority that I'll be caught up for anything more than a few weeks at a time.

What I do now is just grab my stack of New Yorkers and start flipping to the Table of Contents of each issue. When I see a story by an author I know -- or that looks remotely interesting -- I set it aside and (at least try to) review it a…

Book Review: "Wonder Boys" by Michael Chabon (1995)

Finally got around to reading Michael Chabon's second novel Wonder Boys. Much as I love Michael Chabon's writing, his ties to Pittsburgh, and my own personal connection to this book, I found it a bit of a slog. That said, Chabon, of course, has some priceless moments and turns of phrase that -- in the end -- made the book worth getting under my belt.

Brief Personal Note: They filmed the movie version of Wonder Boys (2000) on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University during the brief time I went to school there. In fact, I distinctly remember standing near the set for the "dog in the trunk" scene outside Margaret Morrison Hall, on a cold winter night, with two friends and a bottle of Bacardi limon, trying to catch a glimpse of Michael Douglas or Robert Downey Jr. or really anyone. We waited for like three hours for filming to begin before realizing what anyone in the film industry already knows: anything related to filming a big-budget movie takes a long, long, long ti…