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30 review for Granta 148: Summer Fiction (The Magazine of New Writing)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    Most issues of Granta have an underlying theme. The editor writes about the theme in the introductory piece and gives some kind of overview as to how the rest of the issue will play out and address various aspects of the overall theme. Not this issue. It is a collection of varied pieces of fiction that has the feel of a more random selection. This is an observation rather than a criticism. As with most issues of Granta, I have mixed feelings. Some pieces stand out and others fade very quickly. My Most issues of Granta have an underlying theme. The editor writes about the theme in the introductory piece and gives some kind of overview as to how the rest of the issue will play out and address various aspects of the overall theme. Not this issue. It is a collection of varied pieces of fiction that has the feel of a more random selection. This is an observation rather than a criticism. As with most issues of Granta, I have mixed feelings. Some pieces stand out and others fade very quickly. My selection for each of those categories will be different to other people's. I apologise to Ben Lerner for not reading his piece in the magazine, but it was only because I had only just read his new novel from which it is taken.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Dembina

    An above-average issue comprised almost totally (except for 1 photo essay) short fiction. I enjoyed pretty much all of them. But special mention goes to Amor Towles piece "The Line" about a couple of Russian peasants adapting to life after the October Revolution. I also liked the extract from Ben Lerner's upcoming book. Looks intriguing The only downside was a disappointingly meaningless piece by Haruki Murakami. But then I've long since stopped being a fan An above-average issue comprised almost totally (except for 1 photo essay) short fiction. I enjoyed pretty much all of them. But special mention goes to Amor Towles piece "The Line" about a couple of Russian peasants adapting to life after the October Revolution. I also liked the extract from Ben Lerner's upcoming book. Looks intriguing The only downside was a disappointingly meaningless piece by Haruki Murakami. But then I've long since stopped being a fan

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Ben Lerner enlivens a high school debate and turns the last paragraph into a query for the reader to start their own story. “Innards” refers to an old man’s heart beating its last blood, but also the bloodline that runs from the man. Amor Towles continues in his pretentious, stereotyped, depiction of the Russian Revolution. His writing is supercilious, filled with colorless characters, and, after a few pages, boring. Nuar Alsadir’s poem, “Quantum Displacement”, like many of her poems for me, is Ben Lerner enlivens a high school debate and turns the last paragraph into a query for the reader to start their own story. “Innards” refers to an old man’s heart beating its last blood, but also the bloodline that runs from the man. Amor Towles continues in his pretentious, stereotyped, depiction of the Russian Revolution. His writing is supercilious, filled with colorless characters, and, after a few pages, boring. Nuar Alsadir’s poem, “Quantum Displacement”, like many of her poems for me, is memorable for certain lines: “I am McDonald’s sad...”, “To be happy[,] writes Cioran[,] you must constantly bear in mind the miseries you’ve escaped...”, “The man beside me twists his wedding ring like a Rubik’s cube he cannot solve...” Julia Armfield’s “Longshore Drift” has beautiful descriptions of the shore, the water, and the friendship of two young women. “Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova” is an enjoyable, creative piece. “H+” is a good documentation of the efforts of transhumanists. I enjoyed Daisy Hilyard’s introduction: “Our current habits of thought are uneasy with contradiction, which is why the techo-human and the Luddite competitively mythologize themselves.” Ti-Ping Chen’s “Field Notes...” told by the wife, captures the frustration in the fatal inscrutability of a non-expressive (male) partner—and his family. Sara Majka’s “Providence” tells the story of a broken, complicated, relationship, clearly leaving all the unspoken meaning unspoken. Jem Calder writes of emotions bearable only by presenting them in the most intellectualized manner. The effect is sometimes comic. Thomas Pierce has written my favorite piece in this volume (so far). “Visitors Welcome” is an old story of Jesus confronting his believers, comfortable not in his teachings, but in their own interpretations of his ways. Pierce presents this meeting, this reckoning, in an imaginative, believable, way. “Vows” captures the gossip, doubt, and advantage members of a small town perceive, or think the others perceive, in a marriage strained and then repaired. “Schenectady”, by Adam O’Fallon Price is a brilliant piece of writing, capturing the scorn, the self-deprecation, the futility, and the self-respect a not-quite-famous screenwriter feels for herself and her surroundings while teaching a Summer high school class, far away from her comfortable L.A., seeking to maintain her sense of being, while trying to repair her broken self. “Far from meaningless, dope is the greatest possible meanng, an absolutely dfined value and good in a world of rumors and wraiths, fleeting desires and disappointments flickering incandescent against the void. It is nothing, but it is something. It is the somethingest nothing there is.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    I was given a subscription to Granta as a present years ago and I found it a bit of a mixed bag. The rate at which short stories, in particular, clicked with me was not high enough for me to renew it when it came to an end, but it wasn't entirely without appeal. I picked this up from the ad hoc 'library' on Scotland Street (Edinburgh, or at least east New Town residents will know of what I speak) and it had a better hit rate than most editions I've read. It begins with an excerpt from the latest B I was given a subscription to Granta as a present years ago and I found it a bit of a mixed bag. The rate at which short stories, in particular, clicked with me was not high enough for me to renew it when it came to an end, but it wasn't entirely without appeal. I picked this up from the ad hoc 'library' on Scotland Street (Edinburgh, or at least east New Town residents will know of what I speak) and it had a better hit rate than most editions I've read. It begins with an excerpt from the latest Ben Lerner novel, about the strange world of competitive high school debating. If nothing else, short as it is, it did emphasise something that had struck me in a different context recently: any game or sport, taken to a competitive extreme ceases to be about what it appears to be about to the casual outsider, and becomes a game of tedious, ruthless optimisation of very specific, narrow aspects of the wider 'game'. My dad reckons that's why professional golfers are such boring people... Innards pretty much did nothing for me, but Amor Towles' 'The Line' did grab me – to judge by Goodreads, opinion appears to be split on this one, but I liked its parable-like account of the impact of the Russian Revolution on ordinary people. Nuar Asadir's 'Quantum Displacement' is the kind of experimental poetry that I usually give a wide berth, but there were lines I liked in a song-lyrics sort of way. Indeed, it even quotes song lyrics itself “kiss off to that, and into the air, as the Violent Femmes sang that summer, as love and its likeness infected us all with music and rage” 'Longshore Drift' is a well-judged nugget of a short story. For me, at least, the right combination of plot and character for a 16 page short story – so often a difficult trick to pull off. Haruki Murakami's piece about a fictional Charlie Parker album kind of appealed to me not least because I've tried writing something similar myself and I reckon Murakami pulls it off, though I could see why others might struggle to see the point. The photo-essay on transhumanism I skipped past with barely a glance, but 'Field Notes on a Marriage' is a good evocation of how two cultures might fail to understand each other, telling the story of an American woman who goes to China to meet the parents of his late husband. 'Providence' went in one eye and straight out the other, or something – at any rate, I didn't see anything in it whereas 'Good Progress' did a good job of capturing the internal monologue of a man struggling with both social anxiety and the impending death of his mother. It was, to steal a line from a popular song, an account of 'an another unelegant downhill slide into the unmagnificent world of adults'... 'Visitors Welcome' is another idea for which the short story is the right form – telling the story of how a church congregation reacts to having a virtual reality artificially intelligent 'Jesus' join it – perhaps more overtly a parable than 'The Line'... 'Vows' felt a little bit oo much like so many other short stories I've read – the account of a couple renewing their wedding vows following a period of mutual infidelity, but it was well enough written, and it ends with 'Schenectady' – an agreeably cynical story of a burned out screenwriter teaching her art form to supposedly gifted school children in upstate New York. All in all, only two outright duds in my book, and five stories of real interest, is a pretty decent hit rate. I don't know if I'll renew my subscription, but I certainly wouldn't mind picking up any further copies that make their way to the Scotland Street bookswap...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    The summer edition of Granta has really good stories. While most of the stories have different tastes from different slices of life, the one that I believe was the most impactful was "The Line" by Amor Towles. If someone asked me why that one particularly, I probably wouldn't be able answer but the story of Pushkin and Irina was really interesting and I would recommend anyone to read that short story. The summer edition of Granta has really good stories. While most of the stories have different tastes from different slices of life, the one that I believe was the most impactful was "The Line" by Amor Towles. If someone asked me why that one particularly, I probably wouldn't be able answer but the story of Pushkin and Irina was really interesting and I would recommend anyone to read that short story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey Kelley

    I just spent a week on Grace Bay Beach in the Turks and Caicos. This latest issue of Granta, focussed on Summer Fiction, was a perfect companion. There are several intriguing stories in here, including one by Amor Towles. A fine summer read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Damian Moloney

    A good collection.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    A mixed bag of short stories and essays, with unusually for Granta’s quarterly collections, no overall theme. The stand-out story for me was Amor Towles’ The Line. I have yet to read any of his novels, but based on this short story, I have a treat in store when I do. A beautifully nuanced story. Te-Ping Chen’s Field Notes on a Marriage was also a good read. Matthieu Gasfou’s photo-essay, H+, was interesting; “transhumanisation” was not a topic I was familiar with, and Daisy Hildyard’s introductio A mixed bag of short stories and essays, with unusually for Granta’s quarterly collections, no overall theme. The stand-out story for me was Amor Towles’ The Line. I have yet to read any of his novels, but based on this short story, I have a treat in store when I do. A beautifully nuanced story. Te-Ping Chen’s Field Notes on a Marriage was also a good read. Matthieu Gasfou’s photo-essay, H+, was interesting; “transhumanisation” was not a topic I was familiar with, and Daisy Hildyard’s introduction was a good summary of this niche area of “science”.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Johan Sanders

    Mijn favorieten in dit nummer: "The Line" Amor Towles "Field Notes on a Marriage" Te-Ping Chen (Had ik al gelezen in The New Yorker) "Providence" Sara Majka "Visitors Welcome" Thomas Pierce "WVows" David Means "Schenectady" Adam O'Fallon Price Mijn favorieten in dit nummer: "The Line" Amor Towles "Field Notes on a Marriage" Te-Ping Chen (Had ik al gelezen in The New Yorker) "Providence" Sara Majka "Visitors Welcome" Thomas Pierce "WVows" David Means "Schenectady" Adam O'Fallon Price

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ray Quirolgico

    Perfect collection of fiction: transports the reader to places and emotions around the world.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rue Baldry

    Mixed, again. I was excited when I realised this issue was almost entirely short stories. I was surprised to see there isn’t even an editorial introduction. For a British publication it includes a disproportionate number of American stories (American writer, protagonist, setting). Some of the stories I thought mediocre, none brilliant, but I didn’t hate any either (though Vows came close, all intellectualised, turgid, privileged introspection, as did Quantum Displacement, a prose poem so esoteri Mixed, again. I was excited when I realised this issue was almost entirely short stories. I was surprised to see there isn’t even an editorial introduction. For a British publication it includes a disproportionate number of American stories (American writer, protagonist, setting). Some of the stories I thought mediocre, none brilliant, but I didn’t hate any either (though Vows came close, all intellectualised, turgid, privileged introspection, as did Quantum Displacement, a prose poem so esoteric as to be gibberish to me - which I’m putting down to Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome but might be my own stupidity). The photo essay (the only nonfiction piece) is odd, but worth looking at. My favourite stories are Longshore Drift, Schenectady, Visitors Welcome, Good Progress and The Line (which I wasn’t that taken with as I read it, but it keeps cropping up in my mind in the days since and that kind of mental aftertaste is always a good thing).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Susan Emmet

    Found this collection uneven, but the standouts really stand out. Puzzling photo essay on transhumanism. Must think about it further. Stories by Thomas Pierce, Adam O'Fallon Price, Amor Towles, David Means, Jem Calder, Te-Ping Chen, Julia Armfield and poem by Nuar Alsadir are noteworthy, no doubt. On second thought, I obviously liked more than I realized! The cover is quite beautiful, too... Well worth reading as summer wanes. Found this collection uneven, but the standouts really stand out. Puzzling photo essay on transhumanism. Must think about it further. Stories by Thomas Pierce, Adam O'Fallon Price, Amor Towles, David Means, Jem Calder, Te-Ping Chen, Julia Armfield and poem by Nuar Alsadir are noteworthy, no doubt. On second thought, I obviously liked more than I realized! The cover is quite beautiful, too... Well worth reading as summer wanes.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alistair

    Best one of the recent issues I've read, with only a couple I didn't much enjoy and the rest, I very much did. Ben Lerner's was a good start, Murakami was in there and didnt even particularly stand out, probably my favourite was the eccentric Russian pre-war The Line by Amor Towles, which read really well, was thought provoking, unusual. Best one of the recent issues I've read, with only a couple I didn't much enjoy and the rest, I very much did. Ben Lerner's was a good start, Murakami was in there and didnt even particularly stand out, probably my favourite was the eccentric Russian pre-war The Line by Amor Towles, which read really well, was thought provoking, unusual.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter J.

    Let me first say that I'm an early subscriber and own the full series of Granta. Some issues are amazing. This one is average, with top stories by Haruki Murakami, Matthieu Gafsou, Te-Ping Chen. https://granta.com/issues/granta-148-... Let me first say that I'm an early subscriber and own the full series of Granta. Some issues are amazing. This one is average, with top stories by Haruki Murakami, Matthieu Gafsou, Te-Ping Chen. https://granta.com/issues/granta-148-...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Not my favorite issue. The Amor Towles short is definitely the highlight.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Neil Kenealy

    Mostly American and they are the best stories. Very modern and innovative and well written. Worth a read overall. And it's good summer fiction as the title says Mostly American and they are the best stories. Very modern and innovative and well written. Worth a read overall. And it's good summer fiction as the title says

  17. 5 out of 5

    James

    Enjoyed the David Means story.

  18. 4 out of 5

    John Kelleher

    Great issue many wonderful stories.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ed Price

  20. 5 out of 5

    Seul

  21. 4 out of 5

    J

  22. 5 out of 5

    Victor

  23. 5 out of 5

    Charity

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Dimoia

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

  26. 5 out of 5

    daniel dillon

  27. 4 out of 5

    Becky

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anne

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anna Alexander

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tanya Gilzean

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