Sunday, December 24, 2006

Will it snow in July?

Will it rain toads? Is this a sign of the impending Apocalypse? In the middle of the latest issue of Vice there's quite a 1-2-3 punch: an excerpt from a text (unpublished novel titled Velvet? unclear) by Andrea Dworkin sandwiched between short stories by Chuck Palahniuk and Neil LaBute. Ka-POW! I mean, I never thought I'd see these names in such close proximity, and in Vice, of all places. And the Dworkin story, nominally about hitting a dog, is the most surprising of the bunch (I did enjoy the other two as well, but their authors deliver exactly what you'd expect from them).

Actually when I first noticed that there was a piece by Dworkin in the fiction issue of Vice, my first thought was that one of the mag's smart asses had written a parody. But the story, "I'm Half Dead" isn't what anybody would consider a "typical" Dworkin screed so it had to be real.

More depressing is the LaBute piece, "Slave to the Office," which somehow aims to make you feel faint pangs of pity for an office bully halfway between asshole and pathetic. Boy has LaBute painted himself into a corner at this point. He has such ease as a stylist, but for what? Cheap effects in the service of devious targets. Still, I keep going back to his stories and plays. It must be nostalgie de la boue.

Palahniuk, at least, achieves a certain 21st-century Freaks-ishness in "Mister Elegant." The take on ideas of normalcy and physical appearance may be only Twilight Zone–deep, but I found the piece's black humor rather effective. It somehow reminded me a bit of what I like in Judy Budnitz's stories. Her work is less anchored in a certain type of hyper-reality, but she also captures the grotesqueries of life.

So there you go: Vice's fiction issue. It's free, pick it up.

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