September September 13th, 2017, Exhortation by George Saunders, Tenth of December, Random House.
Blurb: A letter from a supervisor to his crew.
Opinion: There’s something extremely unnerving about this story. It deals with a lot of perception of how we do our work. If we dread it and fight that dread it will be unpleasant work. If we accept it and keep a positive attitude the job will be easier. But then the story takes a turn. Suddenly it isn’t only efficiency the narrator wants. It’s made clear that if the crew doesn’t keep up it’s numbers (for some undisclosed product. . . or service) they will become part of the problem. It put me in mind of Germans working at a concentration camp. There’s a lot of talk about “room 6,” and how unpleasant working room 6 can be, and how the crew needs to keep “cleaning shelves,” which also put me in mind of the horrific sleeping quarters in places liked Dachau and Auschwitz. Chilling. I’m sure the author intended this.
September September 14th, 2017, Al Roosten by George Saunders, Tenth of December, Random House.
Blurb: A vignette about an aging man who feels as though he deserves more respect than he does. He makes a fool of himself at a fundraiser and it spurs a ton of spite in him.
Opinion: As all Saunders’s stories, this is a compelling look into someone’s life who is rife with moral ambiguity. This story works not because the character changes by the end, but because he constantly has a chance to make things right, to accept his own flaws, and then does not.
September September 15th, 2017, My Chivalric Fiasco by George Saunders, Tenth of December, Random House.
Blurb: After coming across a coworker who has been raped by a high-up, Ted is given a promotion in order to keep quiet. Similarly, the woman is paid off and also given a promotion. The truth, however, has a way of coming out.
Opinion: This story is clever. The world is the future, or maybe just now + some weird pharma that can make you feel and act certain ways. The people in this story work at a medieval amusement park and Ted takes a drug that makes him all chivalrous, hence the name of the story. However, even though he does the right thing in the story every he as well as many other people are worse off for it. It’s a story about how the right acts are often harder and have negative consequences.
September September 16th, 2017, The Collector of Cursed Objects by Eris Young, Scrutiny Journal.
Blurb: A cursed man tries to find his salvation.
Opinion: A nuanced story about the inevitability of death. I like the subject matter, even if I wasn’t real clear on the execution. I think the first half of this story set some solid ground work, but the tension falls flat about 2/3 in and the ending doesn’t deliver the punch I had hoped for.
September September 17th, 2017, Mysterious Ways by Bruce Holland Rogers, Forty Nine: A Square of Stories.
Blurb: Three vignettes that could be seen a miracles or coincidence. A man tries to help a woman and makes a pledge only to have it come true. A man’s cancer is cured, his wife develops lymphoma. Two different people in different places see divine figures in the ordinary and then go about their daily lives.
Opinion: These didn’t really seem like plot, but more like anecdotes that make the reader question coincidence versus fate or divine influence. It’s a nice thought, but I’m not taking a ton from it.
September September 18th, 2017, Songs of Songs: An Intrepid Correspondent Explores The Relationship Between Music And The Female Orgasm, by Melissa Febos, The Believer, Aug/Sept 2017.
Blurb: An essay by a woman who records herself and her partner orgasms and compares them to her musical tastes.
Opinion: I was once sitting in a class in which the faculty mentioned that, in some way, shape, or form, every generation believes their the first generation to discover, truly, what sex is and does. This piece seems an extension of this concept–or perhaps proof of it. While the author takes an interesting bent on the essay, it still reeks of exceptionalism. Despite the author’s admission that she isn’t an exhibitionist, this piece seems to be, if not completely exhibitionary (is that a word?), at least a moment for the writer to tell readers how much she enjoys sex. Frankly, that’s great. I’m glad she enjoys it. It reminds me of a letter penned by a father back in 2013 titled: Dear Daughter, I hope you have awesome sex, which is a wonderful look at the creepy protectiveness many father’s have toward their daughters in which they’d rather their daughters NEVER have sex, rather than have wonderful sexual experiences. I think father’s should wish their daughters the best life experiences. And in accordance with this essay I have read–great. I’m stoked you enjoy sex so much you’d find a way to compared your sexual experiences to music, however, in the end it just feels like someones excuse to tell the world about how sexually active they are, which seems quiet exhibitionary to me.