So this summer, your humble narrator has decided to try and force himself to read every New Yorker short story included in the weekly magazine. Why?
For some reason, I only read about three New Yorker short stories a year. Which is strange, as I would like to consider myself a.) a fan of fiction, b.) a writer of fiction, and c.) a huge New Yorker devotee. All three of these factors, plus my ever-present pop-junky media-hungry Need To Know What’s Happening Right Now would all seem to lead one to believe that I would be compelled, or impelled, not repelled by the weekly story. But for some reason, I usually can’t get past the first paragraph. It’ll go like this: I start the story, read the first sentence, sorta shrug, try to keep going, find myself wanting to check my email or go for a walk or read Talk of the Town, or whatever. Then I think “Maybe it gets better” and I sorta cheat and skim across the page. Then flip the page. And then I think “I can’t read this.” And I put the magazine down.
It started out OK. The first story in the issue that was laying on my coffee table when I made my decision was “Extreme Solitude” by Jeffrey Eugenides. At first I had a little trouble getting into it but then, guess what? I really got into it! It’s sort of a thin premise but as far as a decent short story goes, this one was way decent. I suggest reading it.
The next issue included another name I actually know (and can pronounce, as often is not the case, heh): good ole Jonathan Franzen, whose story was called “Agreeable.” And again, at first, I wasn’t digging it. And then I still wasn’t digging it. And then, once the drama begins, the story clicked and I couldn’t put it down. Two for two!
Then, dum dum dum, one day I get home, open the old mailbox and what’s this super-thick issue? Oh just the big fat Summer Fiction Issue. Eight fricken stories! That’s SIXTY dense pages of New Yorker fiction. And I’ve only got a week to get through it? Cripes!
So I tried. And failed. At least so far. The Joshua Ferris story was really good. Not great, but not merely good either. No, it was really good. The Jonathan Safron Foer story was decidedly not good. I read the whole thing, but I don’t feel like awesome about myself because I did. Why was this story written? It seems like it wasn’t written for me, but maybe for someone else, someone living a very different life elsewhere, someone I’ve never met. I couldn’t make it through the Phlilipp Meyer story, though I really tried. It just seemed too dry. The title should have tipped me off: “What You Do Out Here, When You’re Alone”. The tip off is there, uh oh we’re in Carver Country. But Carver Country was a long time ago, and this is supposed to be the Hot New Young Turks and Turkettes of Fiction Issue, right? So where’s the adjectives! This story is so dry it’s making me thirsty, and we were promised adjectives! But there are no adjectives. Yawn.
Well, better luck next time.