Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

Short Stories

Now You See It . . ., by Bathsheba Monk (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $22). Monk, who grew up in Pennsylvania coal-and-steel country, sets her stories in the fictional town of Cokesville, where gardens grow through slag heaps, women scrub their sidewalks free of soot, and men scrounge for jobs that are likely to kill or maim. Set mostly among Polish immigrants and their descendants over a forty-year period, the stories use deadpan humor to combat a sense of hopelessness and economic futility. The most compelling are narrated by an adolescent would-be writer determined to avoid the "lava show" make-out spot, where carts dump molten coke and girls her age get pregnant. Even those who escape, however, can't seem to free themselves from the slow burn of their heritage, much like a decades-old underground coal fire, ignited "when someone dumped a load of garbage down a mine shaft."

The Gentle Order of Girls and Boys, by Dao Strom (Counterpoint; $24). Strom's second collection explores the lives of four Vietnamese-American women through their interactions with men. The book is informed by the Vietnamese immigrations of the nineteen-seventies but is filled with social observation of contemporary middle-class culture and indie sensibility. A film student observes that her friend is not "the first disgruntled, slightly sexually embittered male in his twenties" to identify with Travis Bickle, then silently wishes that he would "close himselfsave face." A professional party girl from Ho Chi Minh City who has married a rich Texan secretly prefers the clean uniformity of a nearby housing development that her husband hates. A free-spirited young mother senses some indistinct but imminent blessing that makes her float through her cocktail-waitressing job "feeling so sharp . . . lucid and empowered." Quietly beautiful, Strom's stories are hip without being ironic. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.