Certain countenances

“[T]here are certain countenances that always, every time you see them, convey something new that you hadn’t noticed before, even though you’ve met them a hundred times in the past.”

Devils, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, as translated by Michael R. Katz

Short story: “The Sun and I”

“The Sun and I,” by K. J. Parker

16,052, including the epigraph

Found here in the summer 2013 issue of Subterranean Press Magazine

A fine, fine piece of philosophical fiction.

Witty, too:

“We had many long conversations, the dead man and me. He told me he was a pilgrim, on his way to the celebrated desert oracle at Cocona. He’d gone there to get the answer to a very important question which had subsequently slipped his mind; the answer, though, was, Yes, but it will not end well. Looks like they were right, I told him. Well, of course, he said, it’s a very reliable oracle.”

Words to live by

“Fuck lemonade. These lemons are incredible.”

—Andrew Hussie

Today in “things I need that don’t seem to exist online”

Dear Google, please give me a spoiler-free list of the characters in this Dostoyevsky novel

Short story: “Views of My Father Weeping”

“Views of My Father Weeping,” by Donald Barthelme

About eleven pages in this copy of Sixty Stories, which makes it about 4,019 words

Appeared in the New Yorker on December 6th, 1969 (subscribers can read here); readable online via public library membership here; collected in Sixty Stories

I don’t really have anything original to say about this one. I just like it and want it on my blog.

I also like Michael Zeitlin’s essay on Barthelme and need to quote it.

I remember once we were out on the ranch shooting peccadillos (result of a meeting, on the plains of the West, of the collared peccary and the nine-banded armadillo). My father shot and missed. He wept. This weeping resembles that weeping.

[... C]learly, in the context of the story [the wordplay here] is a kind of diversionary tactic (“see how playful, clever, and postmodern I’m being”) transferring our attention away from the underlying parricidal theme which one may infer from the undisguised “content” of the passage, that is, the father’s humiliation. The meaning of that humiliation comes closer to “the real story,” one which is “beneath the surface” only in the sense that its thematic, ideational, and symbolic complexities are precisely what the conspicuous play on “peccadillo” attempts to divert our attention away from. [...] In fact, this might be identified as a cardinal principle of [Barthelme's] art, or at least precisely its point: the shifting of attention away from “central concerns” is a gambit, a ruse, and a deflection[....]

Short story: “Selfie”

“Selfie,” by Sandra McDonald

5594 words

Appeared here in Lightspeed Magazine, May 2014

A clever and likable story. Though a few parts struck me as predictable or a little too easy (the Carlos scene, the ending).

Short story: “Observations About Eggs from the Man Sitting Next to Me on a Flight from Chicago, Illinois to Cedar Rapids, Iowa”

“Observations About Eggs from the Man Sitting Next to Me on a Flight from Chicago, Illinois to Cedar Rapids, Iowa,” by Carmen Maria Machado

2032 words

Appeared here in Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014

I’m not sure I understand this story, but the gradual escalation of the narrator’s creepiness is masterful, and every single one of his “observations” is worth reading.

On writing and being in love

“[One] answer I have at times given to the ‘why write?’ question is to say, ‘Being involved in writing a piece of fiction is a lot like being in love.’ The similarity lies in the tendency of people truly in love to see everything not only through their own eyes, but also through the eyes of the person they love. As in, ‘What would he think of that?’ or ‘How would she feel about that?'”

—Zilpha Keatley Snyder (here, found via the New York Times)

Short story: “A Tank Only Fears Four Things”

 “A Tank Only Fears Four Things,” by Seth Dickinson

2499 words

Appeared in issue 48 of Lightspeed Magazine, May 2014; online here

A remarkable story. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it among next year’s Hugo nominees.

The only real complaint I have is that the procedure at the end feels a little too easy, occurring as it does between paragraphs.

On what equality means in an unequal society

“There is a tendency to judge the actions of those with the least amount of power the same as those with more power and then ask, ‘Isn’t that what equality means?’ It’s a clever rhetorical evasion of the issue. Equality is the goal, but to pretend that we actually exist as equals right now is to ignore reality.”

—Mychal Denzel Smith in an essay


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