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2010 Stories 158 - 161

Four from The New Yorker:


158. Uncle Rock by Dagoberto Gilb from the May 10, 2010 issue  The dating travails of a beautiful single mother, through the eyes of her young son.  I liked the feel of the story, and some of the language.  And I like that the boy at the center of the story does actually experience a life change -- too often in this kind of story, the kid is as whiny / moody / selfish at the end as at the beginning.  This kid does not experience a complete turn-around (that would be unrealistic) but you do see a glimmer that he's thinking outside of himself by the end.  Making snap judgments about people is not necessarily a behavior reserved for adults.

159. Free Fruit For Young Widows by Nathan Englander from the May 17, 2010 issue  I remember reading two  Nathan Englander stories many years ago, both of which blew me away.  This one did as well. It is not a happy story, honestly it's pretty brutal.  One again there is a young teenager at the center ... or, actually, several young teenagers in different time periods.  The story starts in 1956 in the Sanai, then jumps to the present in Jerusalem, and then to the end of World War II in Europe. To sum the story up as "a modern teen tries to understand why his father extends such courtesy to a man who had beaten him to a pulp in 1956" is almost to do the story a disservice. I can't say the story rocked me to my core, but it did strongly remind me that the world can be an incredibly brutal place, no matter the time period.

160. La Vita Nuova by Allegra Goodman from the May 3, 2010 issue  Three issues in a row, The New Yorker publishes stories with young boys (from the first grader in this story to the middle teen of Englander's).  This time, the focus seems to be peripherally on the boy, especially since he doesn't come into the story right away.  The main character is Amanda, a young woman who has been abandoned by her fiancee.  The implication is strong that Amanda has always been a sort of listless, disconnected person and that her fiancee had given everything he could before giving up.  Amanda doesn't understand why he left (or at least, doesn't seem to). She loses her job and gains work as a babysitter for a former student, and seems to grow outside of herself for the first time.  The relationship with the boy is realistically drawn, and the ending of the story is a bit heart-wrenching.

161. Edgemont Drive by E.L. Doctorow from the April 26, 2010 issue  A story told completely in dialogue, and not even solely between two characters. There are, in alternating scenes, at least three main characters who speak, plus a couple of secondary characters with a few lines here or there. Absolutely no descriptive passages whatsover, except for whatever the characters describe to each other. It's a stylistic approach that will work for some people and will turn others off. It worked for me because Doctorow was able to make each voice sufficiently different. Really kept my attention.  (Bonus points: not about a young boy at all!)  The action takes place in and around a house on Edgemont Drive, involving an egotistical husband, a lonely wife, and a man who watches their house from his beat-up old Ford Falcon -- but it's not a pared-down voyueristic tale or thriller.  Excellent.

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