“[M]ost of the time I’m blocked and unable to write.”
—Rahul Kanakia (x)
Anyone else relieved to hear somebody say this? (Well, to hear a widely published author say this.) Kanakia is a gem.
“Medusa,” by Pat Barker
Published in the New Yorker, April 8th, 2019, and read for The Writer’s Voice (read and listen here)
Curious how different stories of sexual assault affect me in different ways. This one doesn’t make me angry, the way the initial encounter in “The Elevator” does, or sickly frightened, the way “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” did on my first reading. The main character’s traumatized calm infects me with calm too.
The ending really works for me, and the bullying voice in her head is very relatable.
“The Elevator,” by Karen E. Bender
Fascinating, the way the main character’s behavior spirals out of control. It seems unfair (victim-blaming) to accuse her of escalating the situation, but what else can you call it? To make a more thoughtful assignation of responsibility, the man she’s stuck with could easily have deescalated in his own right by assuring her he was harmless. It doesn’t occur to him because men are not universally trained to accommodate women in that way; they learn to open doors and pull chairs, sometimes, but not to avoid being alone with a vulnerable stranger, not to try to reassure her.
“Primary Pollinator,” by Nicole Kimberling
Several thousand words
A cute story. Gross, but cute. The ending was kind of predictable, but I enjoyed it.
“The Future Is Blue,” by Catherynne M. Valente
Apparently first appeared in a collection of the same title (July 31st 2018, Subterranean Press); reprinted in Clarkesworld, March 19th, 2019, and read for the podcast (read and listen)
8,452 words (I guessed 10,000 for some reason)
The voice and the worldbuilding here are fantastic. So is the mystery of what the main character did to be treated like this. I hope the future isn’t blue. We have so much work to do, we fuckwits.
The opening paragraph reminded me a bit of the opening paragraph of We Have Always Lived in the Castle—which is well worth imitating, if the imitation is intentional. Still, just slightly distracting.
It turns out Valente also wrote “Down and Out in R’lyeh,” another story with a fantastic voice.
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”, originally titled “Death and the Maiden” (!), by Joyce Carol Oates
The first time I read this, years ago, I was overcome with the sick dread you might feel in a nightmare, and I hesitated to revisit it. Listening to Miette’s reading now, I find myself detached, though I still admire the slow buildup of Connie’s terrified paralysis.
“Friday Night,” by Gwen E. Kirby
Really like this. I have a fondness for long, breathless, comma-laden sentences. And there’s the petty refusal to order pepperoni, and the reconciliation, and the way they delicately maintain that reconciliation. I bet they’ll be decent parents.
“The Events of Last September,” by Scott Garson
Appeared here in Pidgeonholes, April 2019
Somehow this reminds me of some of Kafka’s very short stories. It seems to be about a hoped-for possibility that never gets realized—a break from banal everyday life, from conformity even? Creating a tag for this type of story, which I’ve talked about before.