Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bits and Pieces of This-That Literary Topic

First, damn you, Jonathan Franzen, for f*%#ing wrecking any hope I might have had for a sprightlier than usual morning thanks to your most recent New Yorker short story, "Agreeable." Stories about the subtly unloved offspring of various politically-motivated and self-serving adults tend to have that effect on me. I'll say little else about it, just that it's draped with the veil of this is going to depress you, outcome-wise.

Ok here's a smidgen more and then that's it, I mean it! A little context is, the story follows Patty, an athlete in a family that doesn't value athletics or the competitor's draconian gusto, despite that they resemble the kind of thing D.G. Myer's cites from Sam Munson's novel, "The November Criminals" -- "at the small scale nobody behaves in accordance with all the high ideals they talk about; everyone acts like animals, domesticated animals maybe, but still animals." The parents are domesticated animals operating under the veil (many veils to this story) of high-mindedness, which makes them only sub rosa domesticated animals -- whose inhumanity is just as pervasive but much more opaque.

I liked and found this particular excerpt from the story to be the most enjoyable and relatable to my own athletic experiences, occurring in the midst of Patty demonstrating her superior athletic prowess and the response of other players who didn't behave with the same zeal for sport, to wit:
Patty bore down straight at her, and the girl ran squealing into the outfield, leaving the base path for an automatic out, but Patty kept chasing her and applied the tag while the girl crumpled up and screamed at the apparently horrible pain of being lightly touched by a glove.
Jens Lekman's whimsical, melodic drawl is a nice antidote to the Franzen melancholy I got, though. So there's your silver-lining.

I zipped through W.S. Burroughs' surprisingly thoughtful meditation on the house cat in, "The Cat Inside." And here is one excerpt that I believe more than adequately represents the kind plaintiveness with which the book is rife:

The cry I heard through Ruski was not only his signal of distress. It was a sad, plaintive voice of lost spirits, the grief that comes from knowing you are the last of your kind. There can be no witness to this grief. No witnesses remain. It must have happened many times in the past It is happening now. Endangered species. Not just those that actually exist, or existed at one time and died, but all the creatures that might have existed.
I finished McSweeney's 18, which was put out for the viewing public in January of 2005 -- so this was a longtime coming. I've already expressed my fondness for some of the stories, most especially "Hot Pink" and "Bad Habits," and "People Are Becoming Clouds" by Adam Levin, Joyce Carol Oates and Joe Meno respectively. But others included were more than enjoyable, also, if I wasn't quite so enthusiastic about them. Chris Adrian's "The Stepfather" was just the sort of quizzical mystery of modern life that I find so amusing and fun to dissect (the short of it being a family of stepchildren connive to rid themselves via murder of a stepfather whom they cannot abide).

"My Hustlers" by Edmund White caught my eye, too, and not strictly for the fact that it mentions briefly and not praisingly my hometown, Des Plaines. Nelly Reifler's "The Railway Nurse" was a bizarre jaunt, made all the more bizarre by the abounding tangential and potentially untoward references of the aspiring Railway Nurse's affinity and love for her brother, who played so much a role in her pursuing the eponymous profession. Then lastly, "Happiness Reminders" by Rachel Haley Himmelheber was reminiscent of some of David Foster Wallace's experimental fiction formats that I liked in "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men." And it surprises me not so very much that McSweeney's would get behind a style of storytelling like Himmelheber's, which to be clear, is not in my opinion an aping of Wallace as much as it is an inspired take on his format, with a flavor uniquely her own, too.

Lastly, I'm giving some serious thought to starting my own online-based literary magazine. I have no ideas for a name, as yet, but I do have a theme in mind -- one I think has been grossly neglected by the literary scene of the webscape. I've talked about doing this before, but I'm even more earnest about it this time. I swear!

Last of Lastly, whatever happened to the Denver Bibliophile's blog? I noticed recently there were no posts emanating from that domain and was saddened to discover the account's been deleted. A pity!

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