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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Shamelessly copying from Nick Hornby's playbook, and doing a botched job at that, I give you last week's reads:
  • Carol Emshwiller, "Killers"
  • Joyce Carol Oates, "Thanksgiving"
  • Harlan Ellison, "The Few, the Proud"
  • Jonathan Lethem, "Access Fantasy"
  • Doris Lessing, "Outside the Ministry"
  • Doris Lessing, "Homage for Isaac Babel"
I loved "Killers" from the Oct/Nov issue of F&SF. After reading it, though, I have a better understanding of the arguments of those who bemoan the fact that some stories that make their way into the mags nowadays don't have clear fantasy/sci-fi elements. You had to read between the lines of "Killer" to make out what those elements are and they're vague enough that you might be mistaken. My personal feeling is that it takes skill to do that, but that's just me.

It was the same with "Thanksgiving" by Joyce Carol Oates. I didn't plan to read it because of the upcoming holiday. It really was the next one on tap from her collection HAUNTED: TALES OF THE GROTESQUE. And it so happened that this was another story of some kind of possibly post-apocalyptic world featuring characters with all sorts of fears that seem reasonable to them, but go unexplained to us.

Needed something "manly," I read some Ellison. But I had no way of knowing what "The Few, the Proud" was about until I started reading. Sure, I guess some right-wing nut could label this story as anti-military propaganda, but the events in the tale are the sorts of things one intuits as having a ring of truth about them.

One thing I've learned about Jonathan Lethem's stories is that, IMO, you can't worry about the plot holes or you'll miss the payoff. This story is a perfect example of that. Most folks would go "WTF?" if I just tried to simply outline the plot. But then they'd end up missing the point of the protagonist's predicament, not to mention Lethem's opinions about the direction of society.

I was fed up with the Doris Lessing story I had been reading, but because I've continued to promise to read one, I went through her collection STORIES to pick out a shorter story. I read two short ones instead, the four-page "Homage for Isaac Babel" and "Outside the Ministry" which came after it. I didn't much care for the latter, between the confusing political intrigue and the fact that the story consisted of four men talking over the course of a half-hour. But the story gave me a valuable lesson on time when contrasted with "Homage," which was half the length, yet took place over the course of a week.

PASSAGE OF THE WEEK
No explanation, no context. Just the writing that grabbed me.
...and so they went down below the Undermall to the underground corridors, long echoey halls of tile, not so glamorous as upstairs, not nice at all really, the lengths apartment people went never to have to step out onto the street and see car people being really appalling sometimes.

Jonathan Lethem, "Access Fantasy"
Next week: I need me some Card and some Link, I think. And maybe something from out there on the world wide internets.
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