“It’s a Summer Day”
by Andrew Sean Greer
from the June 19, 2017 issue of The New Yorker

My apologies for getting this up late. This week we’re on holiday and the wi-fi is hard to find — which is perfect! But I couldn’t wait much longer to get the new New Yorker story up so the conversation can start when you all want to start it.

This week, we have a new story from Andrew Sean Greer, an author I’m not familiar with, though I know I’ve heard the name before. I’m curious if any of you have read his other work and if you recommend it.

“It’s a Summer Day” appears to be a part of his forthcoming novel, Less. Many of us have issues when the magazine chooses to publish an excerpt from a novel rather than a short story, but I’m curious if this makes anyone anxious for the book.

I hope everyone enjoys it, at least! But I’m sure that won’t be the case, and I’m looking forward to the conversation below!

By | 2017-06-16T16:43:06+00:00 June 13th, 2017|Categories: Andrew Sean Greer, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: |13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Sean H June 14, 2017 at 4:41 am

    I didn’t love the first paragraph. It felt rather transparently like an author’s notes/observations, insufficiently transformed into artistic literary fiction and still too redolent of: “I noticed some things while I was travelling, I will write them down in my moleskin and turn them into a story someday.” Nor did the title, or the fact that the protagonist was an author (Oh goodie, another story of a writer writing about writing, Oh, joy!), or the rather trite line “This is how drug addicts think” at the end of the first section draw out any affection from me as I started my read.

    After that, Mr. Less is presented as a sad sack (named Less no less, and at this point I found myself asking Greer annoyed questions aloud, like, Did you even TRY to make this good, bro?). “Our novelist”? Come on, man! (Also, this first-person plural will disappear entirely from the narrative) The phrase “the secret heart of a city” is then used irony-free. And yes, there aren’t clocks in airports, but there are hundreds of people with watches and cellphones. Oh, and there’s a “Nightmarishly.” Ugh.

    I admit I did like the line where Less remembers smoking on a plane when younger and then looking at the ashtray that is still there. Greer then unfortunately gilds the lily with the following sentence. I shook my head with disdain.
    I thought he was going to redeem himself by not completely spelling out Less’s sexuality, allowing the fascination with his mother’s make-up (when he was a child, along with their closeness overall) and Freddy’s androgynous name to leave some work for the reader. But no, right after that we get on-the-nose recollections of a relationship with a male poet. Ugh again. Writer on writer love story? Long sigh.

    At this point the story was looking pretty unredeemable but I stuck it out. The phrase “stiffens in fear” is godawful though and bears remarking (later “brimming with mirth” is about as bad). The Ludwig Ess thing was, on the other hand, actually somewhat funny and clever. The doll-house whiskey from the doll-house bar was trying too hard, though. The athletic recollection was too little, too late. The one-sentence paragraphs unnecessarily showy and purposeless. The parentheses OK at best.

    I was hoping that Less would at least try to bang young, tattooed Riccardo. Alas, he does not.

    I liked Lancett’s e-cigarette though. And Less’s line about poets in Latin American dictatorships.

    Yes, Sean, you know how to properly pronounce Pulitzer. What do you want, a cookie? You know who Frank O’Hara was and you quote him at the end of the pointless rant from Robert. Bully for you.

    This was just short of disastrously bad writing and I’m glad I won’t be tempted to buy or read the novel. That said, Greer once published an absolute masterpiece of a story in The New Yorker back in 2004 called “The Islanders.” It’s hard to believe the same guy could write something as terrible as this.

  2. smsfanclub1 June 14, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    I knew going in that this was an excerpt, so I read it that way. As a chapter in a book, it was enjoyable, nice tempo. As a short story, not so much.

  3. Dennis Lang June 15, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Interesting smsfanclub1 (did I do that right?).
    Anyway, why okay as a book chapter but a failure as a “short story”?
    Thanks.

  4. William June 15, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Dennis — that’s me — William. I messed up my details.

    It has to do with how much incident and resolution a novel chapter “requires” (in my reading) vs. a short story. Stories are shorter, so they have to move faster and be more intense and compact, I believe. A novel chapter can be more leisurely, merely one step in an unfolding of a longer series of events. With short fiction, when you come to the end, that’s it. With a novel chapter, you know more will happen. That’s why I object to the NYer foisting off novel excerpts on us as short stories — I don’t get what I’m expecting. That one several months ago about the guy in his kayak tossing his dad’s cremains who gets caught in a storm was an exception.

  5. Dennis Lang June 15, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    Got it. Thanks William.
    (I imagine “messed up details” can be painful. Good you’re back on track!
    Haven’t read this one yet. If I can think of anything coherent to add, pithy comment will follow.

  6. David June 16, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Dear New Yorker,
    .
    I don’t have a fundamental objection to you publishing excerpts from novels. For example, last year you published “Of Windows and Doors” by Mohsin Hamid, an excerpt from his novel Exit West. I not only enjoyed the excerpt very much, but later I read and enjoyed the book from which it came. But I much prefer it when you publish short stories. And when you publish an excerpt instead, that means a week with no short story at all.
    .
    It does not have to be like this. You could publish a short story and and excerpt in the same issue, but of course the magazine has limited space so that might not be practically possible. Except that from time to time you do publish more than one piece of short fiction. Like, for example, the summer fiction issue that immediately preceded this one. In that issue you published three new short stories. None of them were excerpts. Would it not have been much better to have published two short stories plus this excerpt then and published the third of those short stories this week instead? That way you get to publish the excerpt where, I presume, it might be seen by more people than a regular issue is and thus might be a better place to put what is essentially an advertisement for a novel. It also means you don’t have to put out an issue with no short story in it.
    .
    My suggestion should be familiar to you. In 2016 your summer fiction issue included two newly written short stories, a newly published short story written more than fifty years ago, and Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel excerpt. In 2015 the five works you published were four short stories and a Jonathan Franzen novel excerpt. So this is an idea you seem to have liked in the past. Yes, there have been other times when a regular issue has had no short story and just an excerpt (like last September when we got an excerpt by Jonathan Lethem. Sorry, but I figured if I was going to name the other Jonathans I should complete the set). But keeping those occasions as rare as possible would be a plus.
    .
    While I’m at it, I just noticed another trend I’m not sure I like. It seems the summer fiction issue is itself getting thinner and thinner each year. Three stories this year, four in 2016, five in 2015, and (yes, I just now checked) nine (NINE!) in 2014. So maybe next year when you are trying to decide which two pieces to put as the only ones in the 2018 summer fiction issue, see if you have an excerpt you are looking to publish and see if you can make it one of them so we can avoid weeks without new short stories as often as possible.
    .
    Thanks.

  7. Dennis Lang June 16, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Hey David–

    Love it!! You’re a literary activist!!
    But send it to the fiction editor (or did you?).. I bet you get a reply. Then keep us Mooksers in the loop.
    Good work!

  8. William June 16, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    David —

    Brilliant! I second Dennis’s suggestions.

    Does anyone know whether they pay for book excerpts? Maybe it’s a money thing.

  9. David June 16, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Dennis and William,
    .
    No, I did not send it to them and probably won’t. I went looking for an email address for the fiction editor and did not find one. I did find a general email address for submitting letters for their letters page, but they obnoxiously inform us that any letters they receive become their property. Really? How nice. It’s not like I ever expect to try to make even a nickle off of it and I know that this is their way of clearing them legally from having to pay people whose letters they print, but it goes further than they need to go to actually claim to own my letter.
    .
    In addition, as any of you who do not pay for an online subscription might know, they let you see a limited number of articles for free each month before charging you. Apparently, they also count their “contact” page as one of the ones toward your limit. That seems rather obnoxious as well. So I am not really motivated to make any special efforts to get their attention. We had one of the authors of a story they published show up here last year and posted in the discussion, so if they really care to check what people think online about what they are doing I am sure they can find us easily enough. This way I also get to retain ownership of my own words.
    .
    Don’t even think about it Trevor… I’m keeping my eye on you….
    .
    :-)

  10. Archer June 17, 2017 at 12:11 am

    I co-sign David’s letter. I’m generally only in favor of novel excerpts if they can legitimately by read as stories (e.g. Jennifer Egan’s pieces that eventually appeared in “A Visit from the Goon Squad”). Otherwise, no. Is this The New Yorker, or a free sample from Amazon?

    I also find this week’s example rather egregious because Greer’s novel comes out in just a month. In fact, I’ve read an ARC of it! I feel they should have at least published it a little earlier — it’s already been reviewed by Kirkus and PW. Additionally, though I found the book enjoyable, I wouldn’t call it great literature. It was a nice divertissement, a gay romantic comedy of manners that I actually think has potential to be a decent hit for the author, but not exactly something I’d have imagined showing up in the magazine. Slim pickings?

    I’m somewhat alarmed by the dwindling presence of fiction in TNY as well. I didn’t even realize the summer fiction issue had been so reduced. Let’s not forget that, once upon a time, they used to print two to three stories per issue. As a result of countless MFA programs, people are probably writing more short stories than ever before, so it’s not very encouraging that it seems to be a real challenge to find good ones. I don’t believe that fiction is dead, as some are wont to claim, but it’s hard to deny that literary culture is not what it used to be.

  11. Dennis Lang June 17, 2017 at 9:36 am

    David–I see your point, at least regarding direct contact with any “NYer” editor. They’ve never made a big deal of broadcasting a masthead, let alone direct email address for the staff.I guess we’re talking about Debra Treisman in this case.
    It was a thought. Short of that the Mookse does seem to provide a good accessible place to vent.
    Keep venting!

  12. William June 17, 2017 at 11:49 am

    Dennis —

    Propitious use of the word “vent”. Some scientists believe that life on Earth arose at undersea thermal vents. Perhaps David (with our support) can give rise to some literary life.

  13. Dennis Lang June 17, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Hah!!

    Davis is great! The passion and enthusiasm. I don’t think he’s missed a story. Sure, all this energy bursting forth as an undersea event. Perfect!

    Clearly you folks read far more fiction than I am these days so your context far richer than mine, but I can’t think of any of these stories that failed to tantalize me in some way, including this one–excerpt or not. I thought some sensational descriptive writing, from the moment to self-reflection and imagination, winding to the force and rhythm of the penultimate paragraph that brings it all home.

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