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

On accommodating reality correctly

“I’m standing here in front of this 1920s bungalow in LA. If you just describe the physicality of the place, you’re only getting a fraction of the truth, which is that if you went back to 1946 there was some dude standing here in a fedora who’s now dead. That’s as true as the fact that there’s a lawn chair sitting here in front of me. To give a story broader shoulders, you have to sometimes push off into the supernatural or the sci-fi, not as a way of avoiding reality, but of accommodating it correctly.”

—George Saunders (x)

Short story: “Cats and Dogs”

“Cats and Dogs,” by Joy Williams

Appeared in Catapult, September 8th, 2015; collected in The Visiting Privilege

4352 words

Lush surrealism. Or hyperrealism? Everything that happens is possible but implausible. The overall feel of the story reminds me of “The Girls,” and I didn’t realize until just now that it’s by the same author.

On shame

“No one ever told me to be ashamed. Especially not before the first time, not when I was so very young. But then, no one had to tell me it was wrong to collect butterfly wings either. All they had to do was take them from me, simply make me aware by virtue of their unexplained absence that someone else knew, and I never touched another wing again.”

—“A Chronology of Touch,” by Kayla Whaley (x)

Literary fiction publication: Granta

What: Granta, quarterly literary magazine, print and online
When: 1889 to present
Who: Edited by Sigrid Rausing; connected with Granta Books
How: Subscriptions start at $40
$: Not sure what they pay writers
Typefaces: The website font appears to be Plantin

This is one magazine I’ve gotten excited about lately because of the online fiction. There are so many free stories and so many of them are good.


Literary fiction publication: The Gettysburg Review

What: The Gettysburg Review, a quarterly print and digital literary magazine
When: 1988 to present
Who: Published by Gettysburg College

Editor: Mark Drew

Managing Editor: Jess Bryant

Marketing & Circulation Manager: Kristin Koontz

Editorial Assistants: Drew Ciminera, Christopher Kempf, Jeff Mock, Margot Schilpp, Corey Van Landingham, Mindy Wilson

Interns: Ivy-Rose Kramer, Jahnvi Ramaiya, Mikki Stacey, Nicole Cvjetnicanin

Founding Editor: Peter Stitt

Advisory & Contributing Editors: Lee K. Abbott, Rita Dove, Rebecca McClanahan, Leslie Pietryzk, Philip Schultz, Paul Zimmer

How: Sells subscriptions ($35 for one year of print), issues, T-shirts, also advertising
$: Duotrope says, “Pay ranges from Semi-pro payment (1-4.9 US cents per word) to Professional payment (5 or more US cents per word)”

According to Wikipedia, Ron Tanner said in 1994 that Gettysburg Review stories “are clearly in the mainstream of contemporary American fiction—you will not find ‘experimental’ work in the Gettysburg Review.” The journal itself says, “Aesthetically, we are open to most styles and approaches and are always interested in stories, whether more traditional or experimental, that are off-beat, penetrating, and surprising.” They go on to say, “We do not publish genre fiction—mystery, crime, science fiction, fantasy, and the like—but are certainly not opposed to considering work that self-consciously employs the tropes of formulaic writing for more sophisticated literary ends”—even though they’ve had stories anthologized in Best American Mystery Stories.


Novel excerpt: “Lincoln in the Bardo”

“Lincoln in the Bardo,” by George Saunders

Appeared in Granta 138: Journeys, without any indication until the end that it wasn’t a short story, which is how I ended up reading it

1267 words

I don’t know what that was, but I liked it.

Short story: “The Island”

“The Island,” by Jack Underwood

Appeared in Granta 137, January 12th, 2017

3507 words

Small talk is complicated. It’s possible to be an objectively interesting person and yet to be so bad at small talk that your interestingness never comes to the surface. (On the other side of things, is it possible to be so good at small talk that your boringness never comes to the surface? Probably not. Somebody who’s good at small talk has, at the very least, an interesting skill.)

On stories of romantic love

“I think what love stories offer, even more than the vicarious experience of falling in love, is the feeling of loneliness and longing. When we read a love story, we remember what it was like to be alone. But the feeling is made safe. In real life, loneliness is a pit, and falling into it is a lot easier than climbing out. But in a romance novel, we know that all of this suffering comes out worthwhile in the end.”

—Rahul Kanakia (x)

Short story: “Preoccupants”

“Preoccupants,” by Paige Cooper

Appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Volume 54, Issue 3, Summer 2015

4631 words

I’m not sure I get this story, but it’s really cool.

“What closeness is there. Is there such a thing as being adequately close.”

Short story: “On Stage”

“On Stage,” by Bandi, translated by Deborah Smith

Appeared in Granta 138: Journeys, February 17th, 2017

8008 words

Fascinating. I feel like Yeong-pyo’s crisis of faith comes too suddenly, though.