kiev4am: (six)
I was skimming through some of my Dad's New Yorker magazines recently. I still find the non-fiction stuff in the NY really interesting; one issue alone had pieces about giant Polaroid cameras, Edward Hopper's house, a writer's double life of lit-fic and pulp noir, and a deceased modern artist called Blinky Palermo who I wish I'd heard of before. I also still giggle like a fool at some of the cartoons (zebra to lion: I give up, what's black and white and red all over?). But then I happen to read a short story, and it's like going back in time to the eighties when I first started dipping into these magazines as a teenager and thinking, 'Oh God, is this what proper grown-up writing is supposed to be like? Really?'

You could make a bingo card. Middle-aged male narrator, horny but jaded - check. Dysfunctional marriage to ambitious but thwarted woman - check. (If the narrator's female, the marriage is the same but there's a mother-in-law and a lofty, feckless academic lover who'll never commit). Affairs described like dry, inevitable collisions between bits of furniture; one-note secondary characters; passing bigotry added without criticism because the target readership parses it as 'grit', 'authenticity' or 'colour'; bloodless, cut-off, non-ending endings with neither resolution nor resonance, as if the storyteller just hung up on you midway. It may not apply to every NY story but wow, is it a common template. Grim.

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kiev4am

May 2012

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