When a short story goes bad, John Lanchester “Signal” in The New Yorker

The comments from The Mookse and the Gripes are spot on. I read the story last night, and at the end just put the magazine down, muttering, “Treisman….really?”

I’m a fan of Lanchester, both his novels and his essays (I recently referenced his last New Yorker piece, “Expectations,” an excerpt from his excellent novel Capital, while reviewing Anne Enright’s “Solstice”) but his lack of familiarity with the short story form certainly shows here. He has a grasp of writing and at the sentence level it’s fine, but not only is the short story not Lanchester’s forte structurally, the supernatural horror story isn’t exactly his bag either re: content. Stephen King this isn’t, nor is it a more literary version of the form, a Poe, or, as someone mentioned above, a Henry James. It just kind of sits there trying to be allegorical and contemporary. The woes of technology are an all but inexhaustible topic in 2017, but it just isn’t carried off well here. Ham-fisted, used above, is a word I never thought I’d use in description of Lanchester’s writing, but it’s unfortunately rather apropos here. A disappointment from one of our better contemporary British scribes.

Source: John Lanchester: “Signal” – The Mookse and the Gripes

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
This entry was posted in Book and film reviews. Bookmark the permalink.