I've intended to write about Nadine Gordimer's very short story "Loot" for years, ever since I first read it in The New Yorker , and for some reason I actually thought I had written a post here about it. I recommended the story to a friend a few days ago and intended to include a link to my post about the story when, after a bit of searching, I realized I'd never written the post. Now I will fix that mistake. From the first sentence, "Loot" is a story about time and history, about legends and imagination. "Once upon our time," it tells us, there was a Great Event -- the greatest earthquake every recorded, the greatest of all measured "apocalyptic warnings". Not only is it a Great Event (indeed, the Greatest of such events), but it is ours: we possess it. The second paragraph details the effects of this greatest event of ours. Most giant earthquakes at sea produce floods and tsunamis, but not ours -- our special earthquake d
If Kelly Link isn't the best short story writer in the U.S., then she's the equal of whoever is. I first came to this conclusion a couple of years ago when I read her story "Lull" in Conjunctions: 39 , and I am absolutely certain of it now that I have read "Stone Animals" in Conjunctions: 43 . (Of course, I've also read her collection Stranger Things Happen , but, much as I admire it, nothing in that book is as breathtaking as the stories she has written since it appeared, particularly the two Conjunctions stories.)
"Stone Animals" both employs and parodies the basic elements of suburban psychological realism, the sort of scaffolding John Cheever and so many other writers hung their words and laundry on: a family buying a house and moving into it, a father commuting to a desultory job in the city, a pregnant wife who is uncertain about her marriage, suspicions and allegations of adultery, existentially anxious children, a controlling b
I just posted a review of Paul Park's fine new novel, A Princess of Roumania , at MetaxuCafe. I could cross-post, and probably will with future Metaxu posts, but I like the site and want to send some traffic over there... Speaking of reviews, over at The Quarterly Conversation there's quite a negative one of one of my favorite novels of this year, Lydia Millet's Oh Pure and Radiant Heart . Of course, I think the reviewer's wrong, but he makes his case well, and I can certainly see the book hitting some people as it did him. Nonetheless, Millet's novel has made Best of the Year lists at (so far) about eight different places, including the science fiction, fantasy, and horror list at the St. Louis Dispatch, alongside, among others, Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, and Lucius Shepard. With accolades like that going around, it's good to have some negative reviews to keep things in perspective. After all, there's somebody to hate just about everything .
In the first decade of the Twenty-First Century AD, there was a vogue called blogging. Blogging happened when people operated websites and used those websites to publish their own inane commentary on the issues of the day. —Jarett Kobek, Only Americans Burn in Hell 1. The best novel I've read in a while is only a novel in the loosest sense of the term, and its most traditionally novelistic parts are openly and deliberately terrible. It's less a novel than an angry, fragmented essay with some shards of novelish text scattered through it. I read it compulsively, addictively, hardly believing my eyes. Though the book is messy, angry, sometimes despairing, and often outrageous, more than anything else while reading it I felt joy — and, as often as not, sheer, unbridled glee. The book is Only Americans Burn in Hell by Jarett Kobek, and it was published in 2019, though I only discovered it recently. On the cover, the title is gigantic and Kobek's name only appears in a small f
While there are things I agree with in the latest attack on writing workshops , the author, Sam Sacks, builds his argument from some strange assumptions. First, he assumes that Best New American Voices 2006 edited by Jane Smiley is a representative selection of the best work from the best workshops in the U.S. He assumes that people who enter writing workshops aspire to be the best writers who ever lived. He assumes that great writers can be great teachers and poor writers are inevitably therefore poor teachers. He assumes great writers have enlightening wisdom to impart to young writers. He assumes that his experiences are typical. All of these assumptions are at least weak, if not flat-out false, many of them for multiple reasons. There are two basic values to good writing workshops in my experience: they teach people to pay closer attention to what they read, and they give them ways to think about what they write. Any loftier claims are horse effluent. The only real way to