by Michael Chabon

A collection of essays and articles about fiction today — especially about genre fiction and the plight of the short story.

Chabon originally thought that short stories were his strong suit and in the earliest of these essays he carries the guidon in the assault on the dominance of The New Yorker story and its privileging of everything but plot. This was the central front in a generational and philosophical assault against the armies of high modernism and postmodernism, and now that those battles have been lost and won the flags are of historical interest. Discussions of Sherlock Holmes, M. R. James, Will Eisner are fascinating, and a bravura exploration of golems in the modern world is terrific.

I’m watching the new Netflix ballet mystery, Tiny Pretty Things. It’s intriguing, and (in-progress) interesting to compare with the flawed but fascinating Flesh And Bone. The subject of Flesh And Bone is art — specifically narrative art. Its flaw, in my view, was a tendency to overstuff every moment with wild and intersecting plot lines, and all the subsidiary plot lines tend to obscure the central stories. In the end, we need to watch our high-flying future prima and poor homeless Romeo; the strip joints and Serbian sex slaves keep things moving but they get in the way.

Tiny Pretty Things is a school story, but since it opens with a dormitory murder it doesn’t need quite as much propulsive force. There’s a lot going on, but perhaps not so much distraction. Then again, I sense less ambition. Perhaps I’m wrong.

Dec 20 7 2020


Since the start of the catastrophe, Linda and I have been avoiding grocery stores and having everything delivered. That changes some habits and tradeoffs; in particular, we’ve been eating less meat and indulging in better (and better-raised) meat, much of it delivered from D’Artagnan, a wholesaler and restaurant supplier. They’re bound to be hard hit by the catastrophe and they’d be hard to replace, so this seems a useful indulgence.

Anyway, to fill out an order I’d bought a pair of venison tenderloins, and this weekend we had a Zoom party with friends in England — lunch for us, dinner for them. This was great fun; I haven’t done any company cooking since the disaster began.

I did the venison sous vide, 2 hours at 219°F, seasoned with ground pepper, ground juniper, and a liberal quantity of kosher salt, then seared 30 sec/side in a very hot pan.

For a sauce, I took 1 cup of duck stock (which is what I had on hand; chicken or beef would be fine) and reduced it to about ¼ cup. Actually, I reduced it even farther, making a glace, but I saved it easily enough with a little extra stock. While the seared venison was resting a melted some butter in the venison pan, cooked a handful of minced shallots briefly, and deglazed with the stock reduction plus (off heat) a shot of gin. Take this down just a touch, turn off the heat, and add a couple of ounces of creme fraiche.

This preparation is said to be Belgian, but nobody seems to record its name. Anybody know? or @eastgate.