The new issue of Zoetrope has four stories. (Well, five, but the fifth is "Tony Takitani," which I also got from Cloverfield Press, so I'm not counting that - I'm reading it later.)
There's one called "Nebraska" which I couldn't read. It may be a skillful story or it may not. I read a few random sentences and they seemed competently written, but I could not read all the story's sentences in order. I tried, but my eyes started drifting off the page, like magnets pressed against a magnet of the same polarity. I have no idea what this story was about.
Another story, by Chris Adrian (I think - the magazine is not in front of me as I type this), was called "Stab." It concerns a spate of animal murders in a suburban town and it is narrated by a little boy whose twin brother has died. Yeah. Hm. Okay. This didn't rouse much enthusiasm in me. Animals in stories. I like animals in stories. But. I find it hard to believe that a small child could kill a horse with a knife. And I didn't believe certain other things, either.
Then there's something called (I think) "Ava Wrestles the Alligator." Karen Russell is the author. I tried to remember where I'd heard her name before. And then I remembered that I saw her read this spring. With some woman who went to Yale and used to be a model and wrote a book called Model Student...which is about a student who is...a model! Karen Russell read something about a school for girls raised as werewolves or something. She was young. Her werewolf story was really good, I thought, although the person I went with shifted in his seat and made sighing noises during it. Well, fuck him.
I also read a story by her in the New Yorker, which I didn't think was good. The narrator was supposed to be eight but his voice was that of a grad student trying too hard. How did it get published there? My mother liked it, though. "Ava Wrestles the Alligator" is pretty good, although not the kind of good that crawls up your spine. The kind of good where you say, "Alligator farm...fat girl having sex with ghosts...interesting stuff...okay, next story."
Wait, no. I'm being too dismissive here. I'm in a bad mood. I should be more forgiving.
For a while I wondered if I was a misogynist and didn't know it, because I despised all the published fiction I was reading by my female peers, since the only things they seemed to know how to write about were perky co-eds who were...models! or...sex columnists! or...plankton! (But then I was relieved because I read Helen Oyeyemi's novel and was impressed.) So it is worth saying that Karen Russell is obviously talented and even when I don't like it, her fiction is interesting and intelligent.
The other story, by (I think) Nam Le, is called (I think) "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice" from the Faulkner quote. I like this story the best. It is secretly what might be snidely called a "meta" story, although oddly enough you could also make a defensible argument that it is purely realist.
It's a story about how an "ethnic" writer (that is, any writer whose name is something like "Ling Zhao" or "Srini Ganesh" rather than, say, "Miles Teagarden" or "Colin Smithy") can coast by writing stories about parents immigrating or some shit like that.
The main character is also named Nam and is at the Iowa Writers Workshop (where I think Nam Le went, or is) when his foreign-born father comes to visit.
There's a great part where Nam and his friend are walking down a road and the friend is going on and on about Nam's workshop story about "Vietnamese boat people" and Nam notices some people with guns on a porch watching them. I don't feel like explaining.
Yeah, it takes place at the Iowa Writer's Workshop.
If I heard the story described, I would groan.
But it's good.
Also, although I hate Updike, here are some excellent rules he wrote for reviewing a book.