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2010 Stories 93 - 94 and Essays 45 - 46

Catching up on the last of the "loose" stories and essays I brought with me on this trip (meaning, the stories and essays ripped from magazines or printed from websites), so that perhaps I can dive into one or more of the three anthologies I packed.

STORIES

93. The TV by Ben Loory, from the April 12, 2010 issue of The New Yorker.  I liked the start of this story about a man who stays home from work one day, turns on the tv, and eventually realizes he's watching a show about himself, and that he is playing himself in the show. It's written in a very active present tense, which propelled me immediately into the story and made me want to find out what was going on as much as the character wants to.  Unfortunately, we never really do find out what is going on, as the story becomes less and less coherent as more and more versions of the man crop up.  I could just be dense, but I didn't get it. Or at least, I don't think it is.  Maybe it really is about the fracturing of a man's psyche into self-delusional multiple personalities when the man breaks his precious daily routine. It could be that simple, but I remain unconvinced of what the author wanted me to get out of the story.


94. Prefiguration of Lalo Cura by Roberto Bolano (translated by Chris Andrews), from the April 19, 2010 issue of The New Yorker.  Another Bolano story that I ultimately did not "get."  The title character is narrating his tale to a younger companion (or perhaps co-worker, or perhaps potential victim, I wasn't clear on the relationship), telling the story of how he came to be born and what his unusual childhood was like. His mother was a Latin American porn actress, but in "arty" porn films.  The story is mostly description after description of the plots of these porn flicks, interspersed with small moments of the boy's interactions with the actors, actresses and director.  The implication is heavy that growing up in such an odd situation brought Lalo Cura to where he is now.  The implication is also heavy that most of those actors and director are dead by Lalo Cura's hand ... but it's all implication.  I'm not sure if the end is meant to be shocking or not; by the time Lalo came to the conclusion of his story, I'd already emotionally "checked out" and didn't really care.



ESSAYS

45. A Memorable Murder by Celia Thaxter, The Library of America's Story of the Week for March 26, 2010. This seems to be the post of things I didn't like.  It's rare for me to not finish reading something I've started, especially if it's a short story or essay.  Celia Thaxter's lengthy piece of true crime reporting from 1875 may be the first short piece of writing I've stopped reading halfway through.  The first half of the story is Thaxter's  flowery, and almost condescending, description of the sweet, hard-working, "innocent immigrants who loved everyone" nature of the victims of a brutal axe murder on one of the islands off the coast of New Hampshire.  Whatever sense of narrative there is is derailed every few paragraphs by a re-iteration about how nice, how giving, how old-world-work-ethic, these people were, and how evil their murderer was ... and if she used the phrase "it seemed as if all Nature was conspiring with the killer" once, she used it or a variation four times at least.  I still have no idea how the actual murder took place; when I stopped reading the principal victims were in place, their husbands were out of place, and the murderer was on his way ... but I couldn't bring myself to read another paragraph.  And I hate that feeling. I thought maybe today I'd be able to finish it, but I can't bring myself to even pick it up again.


46. The Ski Gods: Ripping at the Olympics by Nick Paumgarten, from the March 15, 2010 issue of The New Yorker. Ending on a happier note, I really enjoyed this look at the history of the skiing events, Olympic and otherwise.  The author has a tie to the topic, his grandfather having competed as a skier in the original Lake Placid Games.  Paumgarten eschews profiling any particular male or female current Olympic skier, and only gives the briefest history of his grandfather, but he does delve into the biographies of the men who brought skiing, and especially Alpine skiing, to the Olympics. And he looks a little ahead to the potential of ski events in the next Winter Games.

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