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2010 Stories 82 - 84

Slowly trying to catch up.

Here's three from The New Yorker Fiction Podcast:


82. The Jockey by Carson McCullers, read by Karen Russell on the January 14, 2010 podcast (originally published in the August 23, 1941 issue of The New Yorker)  McCullers is one of those authors whose names I know but whom I cannot recall ever actually reading.  She is often described as "Southern Gothic," and Russell rightly comments that there is nothing inherently "southern" about this particular story, which takes place at the Saratoga Springs racetrack in NY.  The titular jockey has been greatly affected by the outcome of a recent racing accident, and in his own passive-agressive way confronts the bookie, trainer and horse owner who he thinks have not been attentive enough to the people affected by the accident.  There's a lot of strong (somewhat over-wrought in my humble opinion) symbolism throughout. The story leaves you, like at least one of the characters, with an unsettled almost nauseous feeling.  I'm not I can say "I liked" or "I hated" this story, nor can I express any kind of ambivalence towards it -- the best I can say is what I said about David Cronenberg's movie "Dead Ringers:"  It was interesting. It was different. You have to form your own opinion.


83. A Day by William Trevor, read by Jhumpa Lahiri on the December 11, 2007 podcast (originally published in the December 20, 1993 issue of The New Yorker)  It's been a while since I've read a Trevor story.  I'm normally quite enthuastic about his stuff.  This story, very well read by Jhumpa Lahiri, is a bit more introspective, I think, than a lot of the other Trevor stuff I've read.  The story is told from the point of view of a very proper wife who knows she's been betrayed -- she's seen the evidence and destroyed it -- but who keeps hoping that this day will end differently than the others, that her husband will come home and come clean about his betrayal. His affair is not the only secret in the story, although it is the catalyst for the other secrets.  An excellent story helped along by an excellent reading.


84. Day Old Baby Rats by Julie Hayden, read by Lorrie Moore on the March 19, 2010 podcast (originally published in the January 15, 1972 issue of The New Yorker)  I try not to post comments that are variations on "this story just didn't work for me," but I fear this is one of those times.  I don't think it is Moore's reading that is at fault; I think it's the story itself that just lost me completely as it rambled on.  I don't usually mind stories with one foot in the characters' present and the other in their past, where the author flashes back and forward indiscriminately to tell the story from both ends at the same time. This story feels more disjointed, though, more a victim of dementia or that state where past and present are so totally confused in one's mind that they become impossible to separate.  I don't think the main character is insane or senile, I just think she can't really disconnect herself from her past long enough to really understand her actions in the present.  That said, there are some wonderful turns of phrase, and an amazing (but brutal or gory) description of a drowned deer.


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