Fiction by La Farge

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The long short-story is not a particularly popular form, but Paul La Farge packs life into exactly that bag. It’s a bag Kafka and Chekov used with gusto–think of the Metamorphosis or The Duel. In Bleak College Days, La Farge too stakes out territory at the wind-buffeted border between the short story and the novel. Here’s a tale of a grimy college existence that starts out in trickery and ends in defeat and isolation, not to mention bewildered enlightenment of a melancholy variety. In fact, a seething hoard of platitudinous adjectives and witty phrases come to our minds when trying to describe this story, and so you’re better off just reading the thing for yourself, but here it goes: La Farge’s tale is–what shall we say?–meaty, carefully paced, dark and stormy, driving, sensuous (in a weird East Coast way), epic, burgeoning, hour-consuming, requiring a kind of thinking that’s the opposite of reading your email… Bleak College Days by Paul La Farge.


Jesse Nathan is an editor at McSweeney’s and the managing editor of the Best American Nonrequired Reading. His poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, the American Poetry Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Nation. He was born in Berkeley, grew up in Kansas, and lives now in San Francisco. More from this author →