Category Archives: Short Story

An Evening Out: Read on August 18, 2017

Oh my this was dull. Pointless, too. Also it seemed as if someone who didn’t know anything about a gay person was writing a stereotypical story about a gay person. And not only was this dull and pointless, but it seemed dishonest, too, like bad fan-fiction for an extra in an especially terrible episode of the dreadful series Sex and the City.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done my weekly New Yorker readings because I’ve been back in college working on my English degree (I mean, what ELSE would I be doing), but I also stopped because too many of the New Yorker stories are tepid and filled with overly self-conscious and self-absorbed idiots, like in this story. Nowhere is there any exploration of empathy for another human being, unless we’re supposed to feel something for our narrator here – which we don’t (even the dog just needs the narrator for a floor to sleep on). We even have to deal with the pretentious naming conventions here of N. and Z. By not giving them real names they are just turned into objects, which might be in keeping with how the narrator feels about them, but it does nothing for the reader. Why do we learn next to nothing about N. and Z.?

Give me a story about the disappointed mother who shows up twice, once as the mother, and again as the dog, though I highly doubt the author realized this and it’s a coincidence we have two mothers here. I’m so tired of self-absorbed idiots who have nothing useful tell us about anything except that they were turned on by someone’s uncircumcised dick in an overly bright and dirty club restroom. Who gives a shit? Are we supposed to be impressed that the characters are gay? I’m not. Gay people are human beings and I’m interested in human beings, not stereotypical cardboard cutouts pretending to be gay. How about some real emotion? How about a real, hard look into loss and desire, and passing up an opportunity for fleeting happiness instead of an alcohol fueled journey into Club Banality.

This story is all surface with an ocean of nothingness 1 millimeter below each word. I’d go as far as to say it’s total trash, but not the sort of trash that lingers because it stunk your house up and at least will stick in your memory, but the sort of trash you throw out having never even remembered what it was to begin with. That’s the worst kind because it means absolutely nothing to anybody.

99% done with An Evening Out

I like the image of this campus dog showing up to help him. “She was dirty, but what was a little dirt”. Is this a reference to his thoughts? His past?

The dog knows better how to get what it wants than the narrator does.

The narrator is stuck with a filthy dog that will leave a filthy pan print on his cheat – near his heart?

Good final scene, but over all quite dull.

Upside-Down Cake: Read on June 23, 2016

Disclaimer: I never look at the name of the author before reading a story in the New Yorker, I cover it up with my hand so as not to be influenced by gender, race, or if they’re famous already. I take each story as it is with no preconceived notions.

This was a lot of fun, evil fun, but the sort of fun you’d like to have to get back at people who have been making you miserable.

Basically this is all a set up for our narrator to get back at their family. We learn everyone else is a gossip and a backbiter and generally miserable, but we never learn why the narrator is – until the end. Once we learn the narrator’s secret everyone in the family who had been maybe not quite a real character, or a bit of a generic blob, snap into focus. And the narrator isn’t exempt, either. They are just as guilty of being a bastard (pun intended, I suppose) as everyone else.

I find this to be a strange story because a lot of it is pretty generic, though with some very clever writing in it: “We had betrayed one another too many times to be able to sit comfortably around the same table together.”, and “Every visit to an aged parent is in the nature of a farewell.” In fact I was starting to think this was going to be yet another New Yorker dud that paints broad strokes about people who the author stereotypes and speaks in cliches – that’s a popular genre in this magazine, unfortunately.

Yet I think the author senses how dull a lot of these stories are and plays us for fools. He gives us a generic set up full of Roz Chast cut-outs (except for Floyd and Granma) and then turns it on its head. When we learn who the couple are that arrives late to the party and we see how the narrator was testing everyone there to see if they’d give the newcomers a chance, we learn to not take everything at face value, to look a little deeper under the surface.

Don’t judge. That’s a simple moral lesson, but we never learn it.

90% done with Upside-Down Cake

I guess her cooking was not so great. I don’t think she cares, either. She cooked meals for people who refused to like them.

Who are the new people? They took attention away from Granma, that’s bad.

This could be any family, and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. Not a lot of full characters here except Granma and Floyd.

60% done with Upside-Down Cake

Personal note : I never understood how some people could enjoy a thing that is making everyone else involved miserable. How do you not let that tension creep in? Maybe I’m not good at spite.

They’re in Boston or Massachusetts. I actually figured that at the clam chowder and soda crackers line, not the ‘wicked bad’. I miss my people

40% done with Upside-Down Cake

Interesting history lesson of Cuba and the boat named Granma.

The cast of characters seem a little stock, like a Roz Chast cartoon. Floyd is fun, however. No idea about the narrator yet.

“We had betrayed one another too many times to be able to sit comfortably around the same table together. ” I like these little insights so far.

The Bog Girl: Read on June 15, 2016

All I could think of was Tom Petty’s famous video where he dances with a dead Kim Basinger to his song “Last Dance With Mary Jane”. Also, Weekend At Bernie’s.

This story is really uneven. On the one hand it’s (maybe?) about how we fall in love with the idea of a person but then as we get to know them discover either we love them more or they horrify us and we dump them. On the other it’s comical and not very serious. And I’m not even sure what the story is really trying to tell us about anything.

I found the humor too detached and that didn’t jive well with other parts of the story that are really well written and (seemingly) headed somewhere interesting. But like the Bog Girl herself the story is impossible to really understand and in the end we have to toss it back into the bog.

There are also some editing choices that are poorly thought out. I’m guessing the New Yorker doesn’t suggest changes to a story but this could have benefited from some editing (rearranging sections and dropping unnecessary words) and someone should have challenged the author more to make a stronger point. What exactly are we supposed to take away from this tale? Just being strange is not enough to make it worthwhile.

I do feel that there is the possibility of a great story in here, I just don’t think the story is there yet – it’s sort of like Tim Burton’s later work that didn’t seem to have a strong theme. The characters are not very well fleshed out except for the mother but we don’t get enough of her to really know her.

Maybe if the author had given us a better narrator – maybe the mother? – then we would have a stronger story, something about a mother’s fear of another woman taking her son away. To me that seems to be the solution here if I were adapting this to a screenplay.

I did like this story, however, despite it’s weaknesses. There is some very good imagery and I feel as if a stronger story were floating somewhere just below the surface of another bog.

60% done with The Bog Girl

If we swapped the firs twoparagraphs, then gave no dialogue (inner or extrenal) to Cillian and only showed him holding her and Then had written “Cell fell in love” (drop the rapidly, it’s unnecessary) we would have established this character better.

They’re watching TV together? HA! Love the strangeness of that. “He’s 15, she’s 2000”.

40% done with The Bog Girl

I could do without some of the “humor”, this feels like too serious of a story to ruin with off-the-cuff language.

We haven’t established Cillian as a character yet to make this protective image of him and his judgment of the people around him believable yet. I feel like we’re going too fast. It’s jarring

20% done with The Bog Girl

Switching the paragraphs would make the joke about Cillian’s proximity to the job site better because then we’d already have been given the far-flung locale first (“not really on the circuit”).

Start big then get closer to the characters

Why are young men always written as having some weird sex fantasy – it’s cliche. Boys need to be written better.

10% done with The Bog Girl

“While operating heavy machinery” that line feels awkward. Couldn’t you just say the name of the machine: “While operating a backhoe …”?

Ah, this second paragraph really should be the first paragraph. That would tie in better with Cillian’s “celery green eyes” as an image working outward (I mean start with the natural image then give that image to the character through his eyes).

The Polish Rider: Read on May 31, 2016

My new bumper-sticker: “I’d rather be kissing Brezhnev (than reading this story)”

* Know that the majority of this review is me being about as cruel as possible to this pile of garbage and I also swear a lot.

Normally when I have an extreme reaction to art, good or bad but especially bad, I consider my anger and vehemence to be a good sign, a sign that the art did a job in eliciting a response from me. The worst response is none at all, and while I definitely had a reaction to this story, I can’t honestly take it seriously as a piece of art.

Had the point been for me to hate everyone here, say like Rob Zombie’s ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ then it would have been worth it. Sadly this is just another New Yorker cliche with cliche characters and luke-warm, half baked ideas about “modern life”. This is the sort of thing Donald Trump uses to make fun of those of us who read this magazine.

Everything about this story is pretentious and dumb. The author, with a straight face I’m sure, expects us to accept the juxtaposition of Uber as some modular metaphor for the modern capitalist world against the solid, but corrupt world of the police and taxi services. And I’m sure the author and the author’s teddy bear think this is all quite clever.

It’s not.

As Zoidberg once said, “Your [the author’s] metaphors are bad and you should feel bad!”

These are characters, and an author I assume, who is more interested in things than people. More interested in talking about the surface meaning of things than what the elicit deep down in our emotions. People who name drop without ever having experienced real art. Lazy assholes, in other words. This is like reading the transcript of a party from a college sophmore majoring in English where everything is spelled out for us, where the names of the actors in the TV show Taxi are literally spelled out for us.

This story is so bad I wanted to die. I wanted an Uber to crash into my apartment and flatten me in my reading chair before it got any worse. I longed for the days of the Soviet Union and Samizdat (the books copied on cheap paper) because at least someone was editing and something like this garbage would never have got in except maybe to hide the real art, a sort of literary birdcage lining.

And what is the author having a reaction to? Uber? Capitalism? Art? It’s a total jumbled and disorganized mess where on one page a character barely has condiments in their refrigerator and on the next a sleek espresso machine ready to dispense Bustelo. Where we’re told, for no apparent reason that a character has read Balzac in French.

Well these characters can fuck right off with their reading Balzac in French. They can jump right into the Seine and wash up along the banks of the Tiber where some Kafkaesque Uber driver can paint their bloated, espresso leaking bodies.

This story was torture. They should make ISIS read it. It’s fucking brutal nonsense from a psuedo-intellectual feather weight.

99% done with The Polish Rider

We’ve all seen Ghosbusters! Quit telling us what we know because it’s NOT IMPORTANT TO THE PLOT HERE! What, did the author suddenly discover art and film and espresso and thinks nobody else has heard of the goddamn Shining??

Torture. They should make ISIS read this. Fucking brutal nonsense from a psuedo-intellectual feather weight.

98% done with The Polish Rider

More modular furniture, as if everyone’s lives can be summed up by what we’re forced to buy because we’re all too poor to even be allowed into a furniture store that has real wood pieces.

So the lady who only has gift nuts and condiments in her fridge just happens to have an espresso machine ready to make Bustelo. Naturally, I mean, who the fuck doesn’t.

97% done with The Polish Rider

LOGO, not Legos. Learn to Google you fuck. And don’t tell me it’s intentional, you just ddon’t know. And if it’s a metaphor for “putting things back together” imma kick your teeth in.

This is like reading the transcript from a college sophmore majoring in English. “particular material locus”. Shut up

We get it, you vape.

95% done with The Polish Rider

Ekphrastic literature my ass, all I see is a badly written story.

$49 per square foot. Bite my foot.

Not a stuoid coincidence. It’s like the author read a book on everything not to do and did it. This hurts to read.

The Shining allusion? Tepid. A bunch of people raised on shitty TV who read a book on film and now think they understand art. BOLLOCKS!

93% done with The Polish Rider

STRAWMAN ARGUMENT!!

Let’s drink chilled vodka now, maybe the readers will not notice we’re making a veiled reference to the Soviet Union and how cold their laws were. Herp-Derp, to the bank we go with our New Yorker money from this story!

Weak fucking metaphor – systems that can’t communicate but only kiss. Weak ass nonsense.

As Zoidberg once said, “Your metaphor is bad and you should feel bad!”

91% done with The Polish Rider

Oh don’t even compare a cop doing someone a favor to get a lost paiting back to abuse of power in the former Soviet Union. Fuck you! You know nothing, you moron, you over simplification.

“heavily surveilled” – if the Uber driver was under that much survaliance then we wouldn’t have lost the paintings now, would we?