Two trends I have noticed in undergraduate short stories.
• The office is the new courtroom. AND OR, the office is the new unhappy suburban home. TBD.
• Oscar Wao is the new Holden Caulfield.
Both these developments cheer me.
The office-as-setting is no less inspired by television and movies than the courtroom, and just as vulnerable to familiar tropes and cliches, but at least there's a significantly better chance the writer has actually spent time in one. (And no "you can't handle the truth!" moments.) I am also noticing a marked drop in unhappy-married-people-in-the-suburbs stories, and I wonder if the office is also the new unhappy home, the locus of thwarted ambitions and entrapment and mortal dread. Prickly exchanges have moved from the kitchen table to the break room table, the loneliness-in-company of the bedroom transferred to the loneliness-in-company of the cubicle.
Re: Caulfield vs. Wao, I think it's high time for the know-it-all prep-schooler to clear some space for the persecuted-yet-indomitable, longing, lovable geek. Is this another ripple of the Obama effect? Either way, I'm down.