Category Archives: Hooray Fiction!

The Glass Family Tragically Loses Another Sibling: Google

JD_Salinger

Google Glass is doomed, according to reports from Silicon Valley.

It joins a long line of Glass family siblings who, having been scarred by high expectations and public cruelty, are forced to retreat into their own failure and depression.

“The future of technology.” — David Pogue, The New York Times, September 2012

“I’m not afraid to compete. It’s just the opposite. Don’t you see that? I’m afraid I will compete — that’s what scares me.” — Franny and Zooey and Google

“I don’t know what good it is to know so much and be smart as whips and all if it doesn’t make you happy.” — Franny and Zooey and Google

“I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.” — Franny and Zooey and Google

J.D. Salinger’s fans still hold out hope that he is working on a new manuscript about the only remaining Glass sibling who has not met a tragic end: Ira.

- Brian Hurley

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University Mottos That More Accurately Describe My College Experience

UPenn

COGNITIO NON RESIDENT IN HOC LOCO

Knowledge does not reside in this place.

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OMNES EDUCATORES CONTEMNET EORUM ALUMNI

All educators despise their students.

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STULTO EST BELLUM FACERE CONTRA ATHLETAE

It is foolish to make war against the athletes.

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ABSTINENTIA A EBRIETAS EST QUEDAM EXILIUM

Abstinence from drunkenness is a kind of exile.

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NOW READ THIS: A Muse and a Maze

A Muse and a Maze

Is writing like cartography? Definitely. We’ve said it before, and people who are much smarter than us – like Peter Turchi, author of Maps of the Imagination – have written about the (ahem) overlapping terrain between stories and map-making.

Is writing like a puzzle? Sure, why not. That’s the premise of Tuchi’s latest book, A Muse and a Maze. It’s full of lush illustrations, embedded puzzles, and notes on Harry Houdini, Alison Bechdel, tangrams, labyrinths, and sudoku. Turchi argues that anything with a plot is like a puzzle with a solution: to make one, you have to carefully divulge and withhold information to lead people toward a “state of wonder.”

Start by solving the puzzle in the title.

- Brian Hurley

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Birdshit Crazy

The Wallcreeper

FA review tag

In the opening sentences of The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink, a young American woman living in Europe has a miscarriage when her husband swerves the car to avoid hitting a bird in the road, and crashes into a rock instead. He rushes outside to save the bird—a wallcreeper, a common gray thing with brilliant crimson wings, a “species of least concern”—and eventually they take it home and make it their pet. Not much is said about the miscarriage. Which gives you a sense of the priorities in Tiff and Stephen’s marriage, and a clue to Nell Zink’s writing: she’s always burying the lead.

Outside of the Babysitter’s Club, has there ever been a literary protagonist named Tiff? Not even Tiffany, but Tiff? It’s as if Zink is daring us to see Tiff as someone flighty and inconsequential. Which is true. Tiff doesn’t have a job. (At the start of the novel, Stephen earns enough for both of them as a medical engineer, building a “contraption” for hearts.) Tiff isn’t faithful. (The first of her European affairs is a working-class Albanian lothario named Elvis.) Tiff can’t focus on any productive enterprise whatsoever. (Unless it’s productive to sabotage a German river by slowly removing rocks from its banks.) But dear god, it’s fun to be inside her head. Tiff is piercingly intelligent, and she does this thing that certain intelligent, insecure people do, where they constantly put themselves down in clever, entertaining ways, in a sort of cry for help. Continue reading

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Malevolent Badger

10-04

Ben Lerner’s 10:04 is a great book for those of us who enjoy a sense of déjà vu, as so much of it is about his previous novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, and so many selections from his new book have been disseminated in major publications: The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Paris Review. To increase the sensation of eternal recurrence I gathered with my fellow nebbishes in the Sunset, in the new Green Apple Books (which resembles a slightly misremembered version of the original Green Apple Books) to hear Lerner speak.

My friend Chris and I arrived in time to get premium seats, three rows deep and centered, ready to believe that lightly fictionalized versions of ourselves might appear in a future Lerner novel or, at the very least, a poem. The talent walked directly past us, pausing to kiss the cheeks of some adoring septuagenarians in the first two rows. We’ve all looked at Lerner’s author photo and let me tell you—his eyebrows are really like that: a cartoon villain’s, a malevolent badger’s, the arched backs of two startled black cats.

The parts of the sidelines not taken up by the walkers and wheelchairs of Lerner’s kin filled with fresh-off-the-High-Line hipsters, adjusting square-framed glasses on their sweat-slick noses. The current fashion calls for stern, two-toned frames, a style from the 50’s, or rather from Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life. There was a woman with a breaching whale tattoo that you realized was not just a breaching whale but Penguin’s Moby-Dick.

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Feeling Tentatively Optimistic

IMG_6311

FA review tag

Good news, feminists! Not all hope is lost! Pick up a copy of this slim book and carry it with you to be reminded that yes, really, yes, things might get better one day!

Just look! A book by a woman whose cover shows nothing but a bold white typeface on a blue background – no soft-focus photograph of laundry on a clothesline in a field of wildflowers, no black high heels, no pink font, no cursive, none of that shit. Not even a picture of Solnit with her long, lovely hair and some sexy, smoldering look in her eye. We’ve come so far!

At least, that is the impression I got after finishing Men Explain Things to Me.

But, wait, don’t get me wrong. Solnit’s essays are depressing as hell.

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The Interior Circuit by Francisco Goldman

The Interior Circuit

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Beheadings: The Original American Ghost Story

image by Bastien Grivet

image by Bastien Grivet

The new Penguin edition of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Tales doesn’t come right out and say it, so I’ll say it: Washington Irving is America’s Tolkien.

If you Google the phrase “America’s Tolkien” you’ll find a bunch of references to George R.R. Martin. Those references are wrong. Writing a hugely successful epic that involves swords and legends and fantastical beasts while you happen to be an American citizen does not make you America’s Tolkien. What makes you America’s Tolkien is… you’ll see.

Even though he is best remembered for only two short stories—“Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”—Washington Irving almost singlehandedly put the “American” in American literature. By making a careful study of his own neighbors—common people of mostly Dutch descent, living in farming hamlets along the Hudson River or down in the new borough of Manhattan—Irving turned the denizens of our new nation into literary types, familiar people with distinctly American characteristics. He was fascinated by the Revolutionary War, which was still a recent memory, and by the widening rift—an ocean, you might say—between the cultures of England and America. With his stories, essays, and literary “sketches,” Irving reached into a richly imagined, hyper-local American past, and created the first stirrings of our national mythology.

More than a century later, Tolkien did the same for Britain, weaving Norse and Germanic myths into a distinctly British tapestry. Both Irving and Tolkien had a particular vision of their nation’s character, and they used old-seeming stories to grandfather them in. Embedding these visions in an imagined past allowed the stories to become part of the nation’s shared memory. In her introduction to the new edition of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories, Elizabeth L. Bradley makes a convincing case that without Washington Irving, we would not have Hawthorne, Melville, Poe, Whitman, Twain, or Thurber. We would not have the Hudson River School of painters or the New York Knicks. We would not understand Harry Potter, Planet of the Apes, or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in quite the same way.

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