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Short story: “The Alcoholist”

“The Alcoholist,” by Bill Gaston

Somewhat over 7 pages in this issue, ? words

Appeared in EVENT, volume 29.2, summer 2000; collected in Mount Appetite

(Spoilers ahead.) I must have read this story not long after it came out, when I was very young, and I remember sensing a certain heady adolescent romance about it. The hypersensitive genius going up against corporate stupidity, dying from the impurities of this world, drinking the exquisite pleasure of his own death. I was unsure then, as I am now, whether to take van Luven’s genius at face value (the way a part of me wants to take it) or to see him as brilliant but delusional, an alcoholic incapable of even accepting responsibility for his cirrhosis. Maybe it isn’t necessary to choose one or the other.

And also …

“Every closed book is also a memento mori.”

—Daniel Abraham (x)

On endings

“Brilliant short story writer Jim van Pelt once told me that whenever someone said there was a problem with the end of his story, it meant there was a problem with the setup of his story.”

—Daniel Abraham (x)

Short story: “Now Dress Me in My Finest Suit and Lay Me in My Casket”

“Now Dress Me in My Finest Suit and Lay Me in My Casket,” by M. Bennardo

2,061 words according to my word processor; 2052 by the magazine’s count

Appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine, issue 99, December 2014 (read / listen)

An outstanding story.

On Kafka and Bartleby

“If for many years, much of the reading public saw Kafka as a kind of cousin of Bartleby—if we were most swayed, say, by his never finishing his novels, or by his talk of ghosts and the unbearability of everything—it now seems hard not to see that although Kafka truly was a Bartleby-kin, he was at the same time just as much Bartleby’s well-intentioned, overwhelmed, frustrated boss.”

—Rivka Galchen (x)

Why

“Why make breakfast, when you can just read Kafka? Why watch television or trim your fingernails when you could just read Kafka?”

—Rivka Galchen in this exciting review (found via The Dish)

CURSE YOU

“What is done today is the tomorrow.”

—Yogi tea bag tag

Short story: “The Great Cardhouse”

“The Great Cardhouse,” by Patricia Highsmith

About 16 pages, ? words

First appeared in Story, vol. 36, issue 3, no. 140, May–June 1963 (there are several magazines with that title, but I think this is the one that folded in 1967); collected in Patricia Highsmith: Selected Novels and Short Stories

It feels good to read a Highsmith piece with a happy ending that is neither chilling nor ambiguous nor altogether ambivalent. Some parts of this story go on a little too long—we don’t need the full tour of Lucien’s false body parts, in my opinion—but it’s ultimately satisfying.

Short story: “The Truth about Sancho Panza”

“The Truth about Sancho Panza” (“Die Wahrheit über Sancho Pansa”), by Franz Kafka

108 words in English

Translated by the Muirs here

Now and then you find an old, familiar story being reinterpreted so elegantly that it feels as true as the original version. (Another example: “If it had been possible to build the tower of Babel without ascending it, the work would have been permitted.”)

On how genius is made; or, on how a self is made

“[W]e tend to think of, say, Borges or Nabokov as geniuses, but really what we’re seeing is people who from an early age had access to knowledge that is completely off the table in schools. The presumption is that children couldn’t possibly cope with all this. We don’t even give them the chance. We decide on their behalf what we will dole out to them. The self is a product of choices and individualisms, but there is actually a very narrow range of choices. One does not have the chance to choose, and yet one is meant to invest so much into the path that one has chosen among this very small number of paths.”

—Helen DeWitt in an interview with Mieke Chew of BOMB Magazine (found via Language Hat)

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