Saturday, November 3, 2007

"Vanilla Bright Like Eminem," by Michel Faber

This story can be found here.

I ran across this story as an item on one of the Guardian book page's many top ten lists: top ten short stories, in this case. The title sounded familiar, I thought, although his name didn't quite ring a bell.

The story is slight and, I thought, rather callow. I was surprised, when I looked Faber up, to find that he is a well-established author. The story just seemed rather MFA-program-like—fresh but shallow, eager but unpracticed.

Yet it is affecting, even in its headlong rush to drop the reader into the waiting consciousness of Don and his perfectly distributed set of character types which also passes for a family. I find the depiction of American-ness somewhat hasty in its ready use of body types and features to stand in for personal histories and dispositions. It's a short story, sure, but there's a great deal of reliance on shorthand to flesh out what meaning the story holds. And the leap into the future is just silly and crudely dramatic. But it is, as I said, affecting, and I'm rather puzzled as to why I should find it so.

Edit: Another story from the list, this one by Hanif Kureishi, about a man who "innocently" is force to film jihadist beheadings. Chilling and emotionally complex, but its restraint and brevity end up undermining it somewhat, whereas a greater length but equal concision (as in The Reluctant Fundamentalist) might succeed in rendering the great power of its premise.

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