Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The New Yorker: "Uncle Rock" by Dagoberto Gilb

This is an okay story, but it’s not something I want to read in The New Yorker. Erick is 11, Mexican, being raised by his hot mother in Silverlake, part of LA. He’s quiet—as in, he doesn’t speak—because men are always, constantly hitting on his mother. At one point he decides that the engineer his mother is seeing—she works for the guy—will be his new father. The guy is rich, owns horses, has a big house. But then it doesn’t work out and Erick is embarrassed.
Then Roque comes around—Uncle Rock, so-called by Erick because he’s told his friend Albert that the engineer will be his new father. Uncle Rock is a steady guy, nice enough, pretends to be interested in baseball for Erick’s sake, and treats Erick’s Mom well enough. Rock takes them to see the Dodgers and the Phillies and in the most thrilling moment of Erick’s life, he catches a homerun ball. As they’re leaving the stadium, a player on the team bus offers to sign the ball, and gets the whole team to do the same, but when he gives it back to Erick he also gives a note that Erick is supposed to pass to his mother, inviting her to the team hotel.
Erick throws the note away, and proudly tells his mother and Rock that the team signed his ball.
End of story. We’re supposed to be moved that Erick has made this choice and has also broken out of his shell, presumably because he thinks Uncle Rock might be okay.
Nice. But not New Yorker material.
May 10, 2010: “Uncle Rock” by Dagoberto Gilb


Mary Elise Dedicke (aka "Mel") said...

Agree. And I as posted on the New Yorker's Facebook page, this is the 3rd out of the last 4 issues where the fiction piece has been about a tormented little boy with mother issues, ugh, and I read this last on Mother's Day too!

Mark Richardson said...

I agree as well.

I saw that you are a finalist for the Crazyhorse fiction prize. Congratulations!

Jim said...

I'd like to think that this is an attempt to expand potential subject matter, which would be a good thing. But I didn't think the story was up to snuff quality-wise.

Clifford Garstang said...

@Mark -
Thanks! I just found out as well.

Anonymous said...

what a sour, pissy description of an amazing story. I had to look a few back to see what you do approve of, and i did. unimpressed. gilb's story, i suggest, is one of the best of the year, and he is in the new yorker because he's one of the best around. not anything near the simplistic outline you offer.


Clifford Garstang said...

Stacy, instead of moaning about my "pissy" description of the story, maybe you can share with us what you think is so "amazing" about it.

You may be right that this story is in TNY because Gilb is "one of the best around." It often seems to work that way, unfortunately, even when a particular story isn't up to par.

Again, please enlighten us.

Anonymous said...

your quotation marks say it all, thank you very much. you speak with an authority from so high above me. therefore, this particular story isn't up to par. "we" must pass this information down to the magazine lessers, as well as those many less wise who loved the story, such as me. i am moaning, not you, and i must--harumph--share. well i only thought it amazing (yes, amazing) for its enviable beauty of writing, its complexity in so few pages. i thought the ending made it better still. but i am naive that way.

i graduated an mfa program, too. there were those in them who were always so much better than most of us. of course, they are too. just ask them.

Clifford Garstang said...

Lighten up, Stacy. I used quotation marks because I was quoting you. This blog is where I get to express my opinion. You've got a different opinion, and so you're free to express it.

I'm glad you liked the story. I liked it, too, as I said, but didn't think it was good enough for The New Yorker. You mention language, and yes, I suppose the language is nice, but I wouldn't go so far as "enviable beauty." You mention complexity, but I don't see the complexity. Again, I do wish you'd point out--specifically--what's so amazing, so enviable, and so complex, because I don't see it.

I also don't get your attitude. Why can't we just have different opinions?

Jim said...

Since when do quotation marks "say it all" oops there they are! eek

Wow, I don't have an mfa, but I still felt that I had a right to comment on it, as does Clifford Garstang. I agree with him, it wasn't "up to snuff" eek there they are again!!

Stacy, relax, enjoy the discussion. You've got a lot to offer but be constructive.

F. Escobar said...

I completely agree with Clifford's take on the story. Not bad, but not tip-top material. I would say it's soft-spoken and soft-treaded to the point of becoming dull. The opening was wasted on a rambling, senseless excurso. The part about Mexican stereotypes should've been pared down to a couple of brushtrokes. And the story demands the kind of patience that a three-page story at a prime short-story venue shouldn't demand. Even though we are expected to find a grand symbolic transformation at the end, I got the keen sense that nothing worth telling happened. I really wish Stacy would've said something specific in the story's defense. I honestly can't see how this piece can aspire to the "amazing" label.