Monday, June 17, 2013
SUMMER FICTION ISSUE OF THE NEW YORKER REVIEWED
I've always loved the New Yorker and eternally hope to have something published in it. I often read it from cover to cover including the ads, and often with a barely restrained envy. The fiction issue that comes out every summer is especially fun. Here is my review of its contents:
I read the summer fiction issue of the New Yorker which is on the stands now. I've read everything in it, and will proceed to grade it accordingly.
First off there is Jhumpa Lahiri's lengthy short story (probably thirty manuscript pages) called Brotherly Love. This story is about two brothers from a lower middle class family in Calcutta. One wants fairness for all, and joins the Maoists. The other just wants to do what's possible and moves to Rhode Island to get a science degree. I won't wreck the story but it's touching and long and intricate and brilliant. I give this story an A.
The second best story is by Dashiell Hammett. It is called An Inch and A Half of Glory. It's about a nobody who saves a child in a house fire. He carries the news clipping about his heroism and uses it to distinguish himself from others for many years. Hammett is saying something about snobbism even at the lowest level. It's a good story, and I give it a B+. I would give it a better grade but the main character is sick in the head.
From the Diaries of Pussy-Cake, a story by Gary Shteyngart, is about a guy who's in love with a difficult woman who wants men she can't have and then once she gets them can't stand them, and moves on. I didn't enjoy this story because both main characters seemed sick in the head. C+.
Rough Deeds by Annie Proulx is set in Maine and New England in the 1700s when the French, British, proto-Americans and others are sorting out who owns what in terms of the timber. Some very rough things happen with a saw blade in a remote wilderness area of Maine. There is also a tomahawk. All the characters seemed sick in the head. I give it a C+.
Slide to Unlock by Ed Park who the note says co-started the Believer is a very brief flash fiction (1000 words or less?) and depends on a cheap trick. The writer seemed sick in the head (the characters aren't really developed, and the main character is in fact the author). Tricky ending, but still just a trick. D+.
Happy Trails by Sherman Alexie was a PC rant about the Tonto problem and the poor self-esteem of American Indians and was dreck. I know it deserves at least a D+ but I'm giving it an F. Alexie is sick in the head.
Scenes of the Crime by Cormac McCarthy was nicely written about how cocaine crosses the Mexican border and the high human costs in terms of shootings as people try to double-cross each other to get the moolah. They're all sick in the head with no redeeming features. The last sentence made this almost work for me. C+.
Pedigree by Walter Kirn is listed as "Personal History" rather than a fiction but it details the author's run-in with a Ripley-like character who pretends to be a Rockefeller but everyone around him always ends up picking up the check. I preferred Ripley, because although he was sick in the head he had redeeming features such as the fact that he could talk, and think. C-.
There are various other "true crime" pieces by Joyce Carol Oates, Roger Angell and others (bottom-drawer work by talented writers all about people who are sick in the head), and a neat piece of criticism about Florida crime fiction by Adam Gopnik (A- for Gopnik). There is also a piece about a current bad movie, and of course the cartoons (which really sucked). Everything in the journal is about people who are sick in the head. It's meant to be commentary. The one piece that was uplifting was the Jhumpa Lahiri work. It's very difficult to be touching and human and pull it off. I didn't detail everything in the journal. There are some nonfiction openers about the wood from boardwalks washed out by the last hurricane (Sandy), and a neat piece on Obama's tamping down on the press while pretending to be all about free speech. Overall I loved the issue. It was all fun to read. I give it a B+.