Turf Marking

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Once again, bastardizing Nick Hornby's playbook, I give you the stuff I read last week
  • John Cheever, "The Enormous Radio"
  • Joyce Carol Oates, "Poor Bibi"
  • Cory Doctorow, "Return to Pleasure Island"
  • Alison Lurie, "Counting Sheep"
  • Kelly Link, "Some Zombie Contingency Plans"
I know what I said and I have been reading some Doris Lessing this week. I just couldn't git 'r' done, unfortunately.

I was off to a good start with Cheever's "The Enormous Radio," the first of his work that I've read (at least I can't recall if I have before). "Chekhov of the suburbs" is right. I picked it because it's referred to in a few places as an example of magical realism. It's not García-Márquez (it's not meant to be) but it does use those elements to deliver an uncomfortable truth or two.

If two weeks ago, I had the experience of finding the story I now love the most, then this week I found the story I loathe. Hey, not every story will click with folks. I know this and Alison Lurie and Joyce Carol Oates certainly understand this. "Counting Sheep" was solid, and ironically, is the story that has my Passage of the Week. But when I got to the end, I found myself asking, "Are you serious?" That's not the story I loathe, though. By the end of "Poor Bibi," I felt that I just got my chain jerked. It was a case of when you think you've figured out the ending of a story and you're given clues to indicate that you're probably wrong, but then you find out you were right all along.

I'm not 100% sure what "Pleasure Island" was about. Oh, I understood the plot (I think). And, I definitely like the way Doctorow seamlessly wove in disparate, unexplained sci-fi and fantasy elements into his story. Seriously, if I tried listing these elements separately, you'd think it was something he bogarted from Timothy Leary. But I can't say I got it on the first read. I'm not exactly sure when I'll get around to giving it a second one.

Kelly Link, as always, didn't let me down. There's nothing I can say about this story that I haven't said about her writing in general, already. Yet again, I was left with the feeling of "Why the fcuk do I bother?" One thing I will say about "Some Zombie Contingency Plans" is that the shoe that finally drops isn't necessarily the one you're expecting and I loved the way she pulled it off.

Whenever you tried to go for a walk or a picnic in the Lake District, the sheep had always got there first. Anywhere you might want to sit down, the turf had been churned by their muddy hooves and littered with their droppings, like greasy brown bunches of grapes.

-Alison Lurie, "Counting Sheep"
Next week: that freaking Lessing story already. Probably some Ellison, too.