• The Middleman and Other Stories

    Bharati Mukherjee

    directly after reading an alice munro book and the fantastic murakami collection, a moderately good group of short stories unfortunately suffers from comparative disappointment. this book had been recommended to me, and i just read and enjoyed jasmine a few weeks ago, but most of the stories here have a painful lack of development. the stories tend to rest too much on “comic” interactions between characters, which lack the necessary depth to feel like the stories go anywhere rather than sounding natural and lighthearted. everything ends up feeling very stagnant from start to finish. Mukherjee has wonderful insight on the lives in immigrants in the US, but sometimes this focus seems forced so that in the...more

  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

    Alice Munro

    alice munro’s short stories are always so well-contained — rich with detail but no unnecessary words. as a collection, these stories are less linked than others of hers, but the stories have common themes to keep them together, most predictably relationships. munro’s style is so careful, subtly stunning. most times “nothing really happens,” but there’s so much going on. every so often there is a moment of such breathtaking vision into her characters but otherwise it’s possible to take for granted how well-crafted each one is.

    i noticed this time that her stories are usually set in a somewhat archaic, but not very distant past — never quite “present.” only once in this did i feel that the story was painfully short and almost truncated....more

  • After the Quake

    Haruki Murakami

    i’ve been kind of hesitant on murakami — partially a wariness of the “genius” label often partnered with him. also because the few books i’ve read (Norwegian Wood and Sputnik Sweetheart) had these weird female characters that creeped me out. friends of mine who had read other works by him related having similar responses, so i didn’t go out of my way to read much of his work. though last summer i read Underground, his nonfiction book about the Tokyo gas attacks where i found even some of his commentary of interviewees gave me that aversion reaction. recently though, The New Yorker printed a story of his, “Ice Man,” which is a great story and absent of any creepy-feelings-inducing aspects. so...more

  • Jasmine

    Bharati Mukherjee

    this showed up in the mail from amanda one day, totally unexpectedly. i had mentioned wanting to read a certain book of short stories by her that someone else recommended to me. this is a novel that apparently has the same themes of lives of exiles and immigrants living in the us. at first i couldn’t believe i was reading another totally non-linear novel, but halfway through i hit that point that not every book has. suddenly i couldn’t stop reading and was in danger of missing subway stops. the last half went so fast and then just ended—exactly how i’d been hoping it would end. i was so convinced it wouldn’t end in a way that would leave...more

  • Everything That Rises Must Converge

    Flannery O’Connor

    vacation to the south continues, or really had been going on throughout the poetry days. these short stories share a theme of misunderstanding, especially between family members with misaligned philosophies. many parallels of characters trying to do in essentially flawed manners (trying to prove something, trying to be better than others, etc). well-crafted stories: no wasted words, all the pertinent details & nothing unnecessarily thrown in. though also pretty much non-upbeat throughout.more

  • The God of Small Things

    Arundhati Roy

    also from the thrift store in woodside. there’s a pleasing cadence to this narrative, a careful rhythm sidestepping between pasts and presents.

    A carbreeze blew. Greentrees and telephone poles flew past the windows. Still birds slid by on moving wires, like unclaimed baggage at the airport. A pale daymoon hung hugely in the sky and went where they went. As big as the belly of a beer-drinking man.

  • Ella Minnow Pea

    Mark Dunn

    just breezed right through this “progressively lipgrammatic epistolary fable” (go on, look ’em up, if you don’t know), which addie heartily recommended when we talked over tea in tarrytown last month.

    at first the delivery seemed a little too cute for my taste, but it’s a pretty smart book that won me over quickly. a fictitious island where language is a national art form and everyone communicates obsessively through letters, no telephones or computers?

    uh, shall we?

    i know that supposedly the days are getting longer now, but really it doesn’t seem that way at all. the hours between arriving home from work and having to get myself to bed in order to start over the next day seem to be...more

  • Manhattan Transfer

    John Dos Passos

    new york city circa the early 1990s is almost a character in itself in this multi-focused story about various people with intersecting lives living and passing in the city. it’s amazing how even though the city is markedly different, certain descriptions portray it surprisingly the same as what it’s like today. i was struck by how the quality of light, the passings of days, and the way the seasons refract down the avenues were entirely familiar. some things don’t change.

    it might be less enjoyable to read without some intimacy with the city and its geography. but the perspective on these various lives, partially focused on the industrial-revolutionized working class, is fresh and sharp. an editorial review calls this the classic...more