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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Much promise but not much payoff in current NYer story

Both impressed by and annoyed by Colin Barrett story, Anhedonia, Here I Come, in current New Yorker, so on the plus side Barrett does a great job establishing a louche and depressed and narcissistic character, of the type that anyone who's been an English grad student probably knows, a young man who has an image of himself as a poet and plays that up to the hilt, doing everything to uphold that image aside from writing good poetry. Although this guy, bob, is a little old for that pose - pushing 30, making a meager living by doing illustrations for a porn fantasy website (an option not available to grad students in my time, though I did know someone writing for porn pulps and, from my memory of the guy, I'm guessing he had little experience and a vivid imagination). The crux of the matter: I don't completely trust anyone who says that he (or she) wants to be a writer, a poet, a novelist. If that's going to happen, you should be saying: I want to write poems/stories/novels. It's not about being a poet, it's about writing poetry. Barrett is obviously a writer - some of the passages in this story are great, even LOL, such as Bob being a young man who frequently ponders suicide, except for one thing: he doesn't want to die. Interestingly, this story is set in Europe, in Ireland I think but can't be sure, but that wasn't obvious or even important until there was a reference to payment in Euros (unlike other Anglo-Irish writers who I think sometimes go out of their way to include very British terms like council housing and "maths" - Tessa Hadley does this). This tormented young man - the kind of outsider so often found in American fiction and less so in English or Irish - spends his day buying drugs from a school girl, having a homosexual pickup w/ a guy he encounters by chance, then drinking heavily w/ a poetry editor and his female protegee, of whom Bob becomes wildly jealous when he learns the editor will publish her first book. Is this author-jealousy theme a new kick for New Yorker editors, btw? Story ends with Bob in his apartment (they don't even call it a "flat") smoking, in defiance of a safety order because of a potential gas leak. So - what? That's the problem - Barrett establishes a character but doesn't go anywhere w/ him; there's no arc to the story, no resolution, to final insight. Is this, as w/ so many other NYer "stories," part of a longer piece? I hope it might be because there's much promise here though not much payoff.

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