You are now entering Land of Spoilers and Criticism

Stuff on this blog:

  • Personal and professional biases, without full disclosure
  • Spoilers, with and without warnings
  • Unpleasantness, with and without warnings

Short story: “Owl Eyes”

“Owl Eyes,” by Joyce Carol Oates

Appeared (PDF) in The Yale Review, Vol. 104 No. 3, July 2016

Around 17.5 pages, 6501 words

I’m not sure how to feel about the ending of this story. Jerald has discovered a new place in himself, a new capacity for action, but it’s hard to know what his adventure will cost him. I’m also not completely sure I buy the suddenness of his change.

I found myself slightly jarred—irrationally—by the mention of an iPad. Something about the language or the setting feels to me like that of an earlier era. Or it might be that the language sounds so very Joyce Carol Oates (I was reading her work before iPads were around) that I’m automatically taken back in time.

Short story: “The New Year”

“The New Year,” by Ellen Wilbur

Appeared (PDF) in The Yale Review, Vol. 104 No. 3, July 2016

A little over 6 pages, 2735 words

An excellent short story.

The main character reminds me of the priest in “Departures.” He’s the narrator, but you can feel how distant he is from himself, how little he’s able to navigate between his past and his present.

Short story: “Gender Studies”

“Gender Studies,” by Curtis Sittenfeld

Appeared in the August 29th, 2016 issue of the New Yorker (read or listen online here)

4720 words

Rather depressing, given how much of my own social set I can see in Nell. A small, memorable failure of imagination and humility.

All the publications credited in Steven Millhauser’s short story collection The Knife Thrower

Short story: “Fredza, 1963”

“Fredza, 1963,” by Leia Menlove

Appeared in Harvard Review Online, August 9th, 2016

3015 words

Well-written and horrible. I like Jim’s hideous, all-too-human sense of innocence (“His feelings were hurt”). Reminds me of “Baby Girl,” a bit.

Short story: “An Index of How Our Family Was Killed”

“An Index of How Our Family Was Killed,” by Matt Bell

Appeared in Web Conjunctions, found via this

3739 words

This is pretty cool.

Short story: “Sarandí Street”

“Sarandí Street,” by Silvina Ocampo, translated from the Spanish by Katie Jan and Suzanne Jill Levine

Appeared online August 18th, 2016 in Granta 136: Legacies of Love

1083 words

A subtle piece that I’m not sure I understand. I read it as being about someone living her whole life under a looming threat—the threat of male violence?—which, at the end, continues to haunt her in the form of her adopted son.

The word “trunks” threw me off a bit. I would have written something like “trunks of clothes” or “steamer trunks,” but I imagine it was unambiguous in Spanish and the translators didn’t want to risk destroying the elegant simplicity of the sentence.

All the publications listed in the opening pages of David Foster Wallace’s Oblivion

On cuteness and violence

“The softness and fragility of baby animals caused us the same intense pain.”

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Short story: “The Weak Spot”

“The Weak Spot,” by Sophie Mackintosh

Appeared online August 15th, 2016 in Granta 136: Legacies of Love

3947 words

“I tried to think about whether I would rather kill a man or a deer and honestly I couldn’t choose, which made me feel bad, but men didn’t have the velvet-soft pelt at the back of their necks and a deer had never looked at me in a way that said they were thinking of me inside-out, of how I’d look if I was crying or motionless or asking them very gently not to do anything to me.”

A delightful story. Feels like a commentary on our society, where women are taught to fear men but not quite permitted to hate them. Sad that this brutal alternate world is better (at least on the surface) at keeping girls and women safe.

Murder class reminds me of “No Victims.”