Regarding the July 2005 issue of Harper’s, there’s a couple things of note.
1. Haruki Murakami’s "Chance Traveler." Apparently this is from a forthcoming collection of short stories to be published next year. (Perhaps the recent New Yorker story will also be included?) Unfortuantely, if this piece is representative of the quality therein, they can keep it. In my opinion, there’s nothing really that bad about "Chance Traveler," but it never really gets off the ground either. There’s a fun bit at the beginning where Murakami introduces himself as the story’s "I," and relates what we are given to believe are true incidents from his own life. From there, the narrative told by "I" about himself bridges into a narrative told about I’s friend, a more of less simple tale about coincidences and identity.
I think the most interesting part of the story is the question as to the authorship and when exactly (if ever) it is that we diverge from reality. All Murakami tells us is that he has "changed some of the facts to protect people’s identities." Unfortunately, aside from an interesting beginning, Murakami doesn’t seem to do much with this premise and the story ends pretty conventionally.
2. I found Lynn Freed’s "Doing Time: My years in the creative-writing gulag" considerably more interesting. Contrary to the suggestive sound of the title (I think it’s misleading), the piece isn’t quaint or all that much about creative writing programs. It’s far too personal for that. The author is a writer and teacher who has tried for many years to divide time between writing and work, and the piece is a very personal account about her struggles with finding satisfaction as a writer, both as it pertains to her and to her students. I think the piece touches on a number of interesting emotions and gets at some thorny issues. Worth reading for anyone interested in writing.
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