This is, potentially, the worst short story ever written. It’s bad, it’s dreadful, it’s poorly written, it has no point, it’s not clever. This story is so bad it is an insult to the man who chopped down the tree that was turned into the paper the story was printed on. This story is so terrible the woman who drives the truck that delivers the printing ink to the New Yorker is considering holding the next shipment hostage until the editors apologize personally to her and her family for their incompetence. She works too hard, puts up with too much traffic and back pain to waste her time allowing the staff at the short story department of the New Yorker to waste all that ink on something this bad.
This story isn’t just bad, either, it’s irresponsible, too. This story gives permission to community college creative writing students everywhere to write stories with no point, no dramatic tension, that fills page after page of seedy, bleak, modern landscape descriptions which offer no insight into anything real and only serve to show how much angst the writer feels. Creative writing professors should immediately call their local union and organize a strike whose end can only come when the author, Mr. Barrett is stripped of his typewriter and is forced to go on Anderson Cooper and apologize to America for wasting our time.
Mr. Barrett should then be required to live as one of Tolstoy’s characters who must find meaning in working the land, freeing the serfs, and making some sort of amends for his sins through honest, hard work. He must swear to never looks at an urban landscape and describe how bleak everything is without having any concept of the people who actually live there. Mr. Barrett must be forced to actually meet the man who chops down the trees that are turned into books, learn how though this wage laborer never went to college spends his days off reading Joyce and hopes each tree, each branch, is put to use to bring some sort of artistic genius into the world.
Or perhaps Mr. Barrett can spend a week riding along with the ink delivery lady and learn how she put 4 daughters through college on her salary all by herself with no husband, and how they all turned out OK because they worked hard and didn’t spend all day judging people who have less or more fortune than they do.
Why writers like Barrett think stories like this interest anyone is only slightly less of a wonder than why the editors who sat around a table said to each other, “Yes, this is the perfect story to be published in our venerable publication”. The editors are also to blame for they enable this garbage. At best, they are such a timid flock of under-talented dropouts that none of them had the courage to stand up and say, “This story is not good” because they didn’t want their peers to think they weren’t “edgy” or “modern”.
Well, New Yorker editors, you know what’s “edgy” and “modern”? Good writing and characters that aren’t so thin that theoretical physicists could mine their substance to study the smallest building blocks of the universe.
But I want this story to serve as an example. I want this story to be held up as an example of how low we fell as a civilization so that we can finally begin the slow climb back up out of the refuse heap that has born authors such as Mr Barrett. I want our ancestors to look back at this piece of garbage and say, “This was a turning point in all civilization where the stupid of the world were finally stripped of their power!” And this story will be enshrined next to the law Code of Hammurabi as evidence of how we rebuilt the world into a better, more just place. A world where we don’t write about shallow teenagers selling pot because they’re mad at their rich parents, where characters don’t have to constantly wash their hands with that stupid pink soap found in schools, where we don’t get descriptions of refuse blowing around in the breeze. In short where we don’t get the same lazy, dishonest, and idiotic ramblings of someone who has no concept of how real people actually live in the world.