In the May 12 New Yorker: two beautiful poems on friendship. The one by Kirmen Uribe (translated from Basque), "May," touched me especially -- it's not really so much about springtime as about memories of springtimes past that the poet wants to share with one special, dear old friend. The other is Carl Phillips' "The Messenger," about trying to recover a connection to a friend that, perhaps through some careless word, has been sundered. "What happens, I think, is we betray / ourselves first -- our better selves, I'd have said once -- and the others after..."

The short story by E. L. Doctorow, however, was a disappointment. "Walter John Harmon" is the kind of exaggerated satire that Kurt Vonnegut does much more economically, to greater comic effect. Here, the naive narrator goes on defending his folly for so long I ceased to care. I don't feel great affection for some of Vonnegut's outlandish characters, either, but that's not what they're there for. They are comic figures, doing vaudeville, and after the joke is sprung, they exit the stage. E. L., if you're planning to include this in a future collection, please cut, much. We got the joke by page 3.

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