Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category
Saying “This is a really nice moment” is a can’t-miss way to kill a moment, and directly addressing the philosophical questions at the heart of a story is a can’t-miss way to kill both the questions and the story. This, at any rate, is what is taught in creative writing classes, so we should be grateful that Bennett Sims, an Iowa graduate, must not have paid very close attention in workshop. Sims’ spectacular debut novel, A Questionable Shape, is ostensibly about zombies, but he is much less interested in chase scenes and infection countdowns than in using undeath to explore memory, home, family, love, and the question that unites much contemporary philosophy with the entire history of fiction: what makes a person a person rather than a zombie? Continue reading "Bennett Sims’ ‘A Questionable Shape’"…
Jittery paranoid dystopian Fiona Maazel is back with a new novel, Woke Up Lonely, following her funny, eccentric debut Last Last Chance. Maazel writes spectacular and very weird sentences, and in this book she tackles modern social alienation. Continue reading "Fiona Maazel’s ‘Woke Up Lonely’"…
The Fun Parts seems an ironic title for Sam Lipsyte’s astonishing new book, his return to the short story after three acclaimed novels. In these stories, the recovering-addict daughter of a Holocaust survivor grows involved with a recovering Neo-Nazi; a listless office-drone of a dad is targeted by an anthropomorphic drone of a much more lethal variety; and a junkie tries to get rich quick. Needless to say, these characters do not experience much fun.
But for the reader there’s no irony. When I was Lipsyte’s student, he told us to cut anything we thought we needed before “getting to the good part,” because “it all has to be the good part.” This collection demonstrates the generosity of that commitment: almost every sentence is fun, and many are funny—very funny. Through tight control of each word, Lipsyte simultaneously evokes the institutionalized language that defines and tortures his characters (and us) and creates a language that is itself a kind of quarantined fun zone: “Her friends, the endorphins. She wanted to leap off a boat and swim with them.”
At Lipsyte’s office at Columbia University, we talked about how institutionalized language shapes the way we see everything from the Holocaust to drone strikes—a topic touched on in this collection’s “The Republic of Empathy,”—to what Lipsyte calls “the Z word” and what he possibly shares with Louis C.K. and Marc Maron. We also talked about short stories versus novels, the future of writing, and why he feels foxy.
—David Burr Gerrard