Look How the Fish Live by J.F. Powers, the Poet of Frustration

Look How The Fish Live by J.F. PowersThe most haunting story in Look How the Fish Live, a collection of short stories by J.F. Powers published in 1975, is the eponymous story that opens it, “Look How the Fish Live,” a story about the indifference of the universe. Every time I read it I think of Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” although the stories could not be more different on the surface. The story was in the first book Powers published after his masterpiece, the novel Morte D’Urban (see review), with which Powers beat out Nabokov, Updike and Katherine Anne Porter for the 1963 National Book Award. “Look How the Fish Live” is now available in The Stories of J.F. Powers.
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The Ends of Our Tethers and Alasdair Gray’s Great Theme

Mural by Alasdair Gray

 Once a writer has written a book that enough people like, he or she is expected to go on writing that book over and over forever. If the writer is a hack and starts cranking out more of the same, his audience and acclaim will grow. If the writer is good, and continues to grow in his work, he inevitably alienates a good portion of his audience, which sees their dissatisfaction with the writer’s new direction as a failing of the writer. Continue reading The Ends of Our Tethers and Alasdair Gray’s Great Theme

George Williams’ Gardens of Earthly Delight: Hieronymus Bosch vs. American Dream

Gardens of Earthly Delight

George Williams’ short story “Miss September,” in his collection titled Gardens of Earthly Delight, is the story of a Big Con. A rich eccentric, Kip, heir to a family fortune derived from patents for smelting and manufacturing alloys, becomes the prisoner of a neighborhood “witch” (Esther) and her “coven,” who proceed to drive him crazy with the kinds of psy ops used by the ATF against David Koresh in Waco, or against Noriega at the Holy See’s embassy in Panama, or against prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. (Most of the horror in these stories is inflicted with weapons and methods we now routinely have our governments use on other people.) Continue reading George Williams’ Gardens of Earthly Delight: Hieronymus Bosch vs. American Dream