So I just read “The Dark Arts” by Ben Marcus…

This is easily the best piece of short fiction I’ve read in years.  

I’ve read a ton of great fiction in my day, but wow.  This story floored me in a way that I can’t remember happening in a very long time, probably since undergrad.  Not that I’m not routinely impressed and affected by great writing (I am); I read a lot of work by contemporary writers and occasionally revisit my old favorites, and I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by artists (literary, visual, musical, performance, etc) who continually surprise and inspire me with their talent.  But damn, sometimes something just knocks you on your ass and you think, wow, this person just reached up into my gut and punched me in the brain…and it was good.

I got that feeling when I read this:

“Instead, Julian was stuck with whiny, nasal English, in which every word was a spoiled complaint, a bit of pouting. In English, no matter what you said, you sounded like a coddled human mascot with a giant head asking to have his wiener petted. Because you were lonely. Because you were scared. And your wiener would feel so much better if someone petted it. How freakishly impolite, how shameful, to let these things be revealed by one’s language. At least overseas he didn’t speak much English. He didn’t speak much anything.”

“The Dark Arts” by Ben Marcus (from the May 30 issue of The New Yorker)

(sidenote: shoutout to this blog, which I like to check after I’ve read a particularly good–or particularly unsatisfying–story in TNY. I’m happy to say we’re in agreement on this one.)

P.S.:  Thank you for the subscription.  You know who you are.

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