We watch things on screens.

(as a regular feature, I break from whatever else I’m reading to read the fiction and poetry in The New Yorker, and write something–sometimes a brief tangent, sometimes something more full and formal–here).

Reading The New Yorker, July 25 2011 issue.  Fiction: “Matinee” by Robert Coover.  Poetry: “On the Nature of Understanding” by Kay Ryan and “A Black History of the English-Speaking Peoples” by Daljit Nagra

Coover’s “Matinee” is really a quite elegant story.  It is a regressive stories within stories story, as various couples come together romantically and/or sexually, the hookup often connected to watching a movie, the couples often characters in the movies being watched.  At this point, a story like this is not easy to write well: even The Simpsons takes similar storytelling structures explicitly for comic purposes.  It is easy for a writer to try inject too much wit, and leave the story too aware of its own perceived cleverness.  Yet such a story has to be somewhat self-aware.  Coover achieves this quite well with smooth transitions, and he achieves aesthetic and thematic unity through the various forms.

Many of us have been immersed in fictional narratives and constructed images for our entire lives.  There may be something of a mess of our imaginations and our expectations.  A story like “Matinee” seems to get at that.


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