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three stories from the same magazine

Picked up the latest (February 2008) issue of Harper's Magazine in the airport on the way to Charlotte, and there were three short fiction pieces in it.  One official short story, two other pieces.  And so, here are my thoughts:

The Compliance Branch by David Foster Wallace.  I haven't read any Wallace, but this short excerpt from his next novel, which stands alone okay (not a great short story, but there is a narrative focus that could be considered "complete" if one wanted to consider it such), makes me want to give him a try.  The first sentence is "My audit group's Group Manager and his wife have an infant I can only describe as fierce."  As lead-offs go, it doesn't seem that engrossing, but it made me want to know why the narrator feels that way.  And so I read on, and I think you will to.  There are some great descriptions evoking children in the workplace, and a bit of a surreal moment that really makes me want to read the novel when it comes out.

ELF-CIO by Mirta Narosky (translated from the Spanish by Burke Butler) is billed in Harper's as a "parable," taken from a children's book called "Elves for Dignity," published by the workers' cooperative that operates the Hotel Bauen in Buenos Aires.  Elves help a King convert one of his palaces into a hotel, and then things go wrong.  I won't say more in case anyone wants to read it.  It's an okay story, nothing I would go out of my way to recommend, but others might find it more interesting.

Wars In Distant Lands by Najem Wali (translated from the Arabic by Raymond Stock) is the actual short story offering of the issue, and it's a pretty strong piece.  The narrator is, I think, completely unreliable.  How much of his memory is a sham, I found myself asking.  He keeps referencing a war that is never identified (in fact, he even asks himself, "the war, the war -- but which war?") that scarred him. He has memories of Basra.  He is spurred to memory by a postcard from his ex-lover, who is coming back to Lisbon to see him again.  He, and others, refer to himself as "a sailor on Terra Firma."  To say more about why I don't trust him as a narrator would be to give away much of the story.  I hope someone else will read this one and want to discuss the seeming ambiguities of it with me.  I was fascinated by this character despite not trusting him.

These are Stories 24-26 for the year.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 29th, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)
I'll have to check out the Narosky story, it sounds pretty interesting.
Jan. 31st, 2008 04:04 am (UTC)
It's very very short, really does read like a children's story.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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