Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Alejandro Zambra's "Reading Comprehension: Text No. 1" was originally published in the July 6 & 13, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.
Two issues ago, The New Yorker published a very positive article on Zambra by none other than James Wood — it was very positive. They follow that up with one of Zambra’s stories, the second they’ve published (you can read some thoughts on “Camilo,” which appeared in the May 26, 2014 issue, here).
Honestly, I am not quite on board. I’ve read and admired Ways of Going Home (my thoughts here), and I read his new story collection My Documents (which spurred Wood to read the rest of Zambra’s work) but didn’t enjoy it much at all. I hope it’s just me and that I’ll find more to admire as Zambra keeps writing.
I’m anxious to read your thoughts, so please join the conversation below!
To get things started, here are Adrienne’s initial thoughts.
Something is missing here for me on this one. It feels like a memoir/essay that moves clumsily into an anecdote, then crashes with a “thud” into a slightly humorous satire.
This tale is set-up perfectly for an honors English class that can take and dissect it into form and feature. The quiz at the end is a parody of the theme — a gimmick to be sure, but one that will introduce students to a new author and will offer opportunities to compare and contrast education across cultures.
But for me? At this point in my life? I have heard great things about the creativity and skill of Alejandro Zambra, and I am disappointed that “Reading Comprehension: Text No. 1” was my introduction to his work.
I was not reading a story here. I was reading an English Comp paper written by a student who decided to be clever, and even a bit trite.
Not every writing by a well-praised writer can be praiseworthy. But in this magazine? Surrounded by accolades in an interview and laden with commendation in an interview? This piece does not warrant the laurel leaves.