Monthly Archives: May 2012

An American in Havana

Yet it was possible to see Morgan, with his brooding blue eyes and cigarette perpetually clamped between his teeth, as heralding a new social type: a beatnik, a rolling stone. A friend of Morgan’s once told a reporter, “Jack Kerouac was still imagining life on the road while Morgan was out there living it.”

The May 28 New Yorker has an amazing story by David Grann about an American who traveled to Cuba to fight in the Cuban revolution, only to be chewed up by the aftermath. The subject, William Alexander Morgan, is a petty criminal and drifting soul, who turned a revolution into the culmination of his search for meaning.

Grann illuminates the man and the nation he chose to identify with, proving equally adept with Morgan’s abandoned children and the brutality of one dictator that slides into the murderous repression of another.

Fiction: Louise Erdrich – “Nero”

I typically enjoy Louise Erdrich’s short stories in the New Yorker, but her last one was a real delight. “Nero” blends a half-feral watchdog with courtship by combat in a half-civilized frontier town. (The time period isn’t clear, but the citizens seem to have just figured out how to get themselves into trouble with the electricity that’s been wired to their homes.)

In the midst of the story is a bravura scene where a tarantula and python turn on their showman during a visit to an elementary school. My only complaint is the ending feels a little preordained; any other direction would have been more satisfying. But that’s a small part of the story, which is well worth a read.

Update: Just saw this quote from Erdrich in the interview, which is fitting:

You probably read more short stories than anyone else on earth, so you know the rules. If a person gets romantic justice in the story, the dog must suffer, or vice versa. Also, I have never liked cocker spaniels.