Short story: “The Arrival of John Robert”

“The Arrival of John Robert,” by David Huddle

Appeared in the Harvard Review Online, May 2nd, 2017

3777 words

A fantastic piece. We get the main character’s whole life—that is, every moment of love in her life—in under 4000 words. Guessing this is excerpted from Huddle’s forthcoming novel Hazel.


Short story: “What It Is to Preserve”

“What It Is to Preserve,” by Amber Taliancich Allen

Appeared in Ninth Letter, Winter 2017; online here

2726 words

This is a pretty cool form for a story.

Short story: “Chop Shop”

“Chop Shop,” by Jessica Walker

Appeared in Ninth Letter, Winter 2017; online here

3519 words

I like the way Roxy’s feeling of loss is left implied. Good last line.

Short story: “Red Feathers”

“Red Feathers,” by Tara White

Appeared in Neon, Issue Forty-Two, winter 2016, online here

2151 words

This is so cool.

Short story: “The Unplayable Études”

“The Unplayable Études,” by Ethan Chatagnier

Appeared in The Cincinnati Review, issue 14.1, summer 2017; excerpted here

Not sure how many words

I admire the way the line “He was such a strong swimmer” carries so much weight. The story doesn’t even have to tell us he’s dead.

The story also never tells us whether she succeeded in playing the unplayable, though it assures us she knows herself. Great metaphor, that music.

I like the narration of the father’s almost tidy grief, and of the mother’s messy, counterintuitive reaction to Charlie’s death.

Short story: “King Kylie”

“King Kylie,” by Jessica Berger

Appeared in Ninth Letter, Summer 2017; online here

1247 words

Kind of reminds me of Joyce Carol OatesFoxfire, an anthem to adolescent passion. Feels like flash fiction.

The opening made me think it would be a speculative piece, with all the slightly surreal teeth imagery.

Short story: “Monstrous Beings Through Time”

“Monstrous Beings Through Time,” by Kate Osana Simonian

Appeared in Ninth Letter, Summer 2017 issue; online here

1603 words

At first I read the narrator as human, so I had to go back and reread the beginning. A truly weird story. I like the sense that the main character is just on the verge of recognizing their own desire and compassion and personhood, but can’t accept any of those things as belonging to themself.

A great paragraph: “I have always been in this cell. Here I rest, feed, and perform directives. Each day I am given three cleaning mattes. There is a green switch to effect my incineration, should I need it. Each day I use one whole matte to polish the switch.”

(Nitpick: Is it a switch or a button?)

I think the section breaks are important to keep the story from seeming like it’s located in linear time.

Personal essay that doubles as a sort of short story cycle: “Emails I Have Never Received But Believe I Am Owed”

“Emails I Have Never Received But Believe I Am Owed” (capitalization sic), by Mallory Ortberg

Appeared on Shondaland, October 17th, 2017

1316 words

Kind of reminds me of “Deb Olin Unferth.”

“No one remembers that you did that. It was mean-spirited, unnecessary, and cruel, but not a single soul beside yourself remembers that you did it; in a very real sense, it as if it never happened.

“If any of us did remember, we would all instinctively understand that it was not an illustrative representation of your character, and would never hold it against you, but of course none of us remember, so the point is immaterial.”

Short story: “Hunt and Catch”

“Hunt and Catch,” by Jac Jemc

Featured in The Masters Review, Friday, October 13th, 2017

1632 words

An interesting portrait of alienation (and of women’s fear of strange men). I feel like it would be more effective if it were longer. Shirley Jackson wrote a story a little bit like this, but longer—more time to build atmosphere.

On talent, craft, and the ineffable

Lee Henderson: Have your ideas about what makes for good writing changed since you began publishing?

Elyse Friedman: I don’t think so. Talent is the most important ingredient. Then mix in as many of the following as you can: pain, loss, experience, intelligence, guts, sense of humour, empathy, soul, taste, fearlessness, originality, audacity, pizzazz. Craft is probably the least important part, though it’s exciting when all the elements come together.

this interview

Interesting. I’ve always treated it as an article of faith that craft is the most important ingredient, or perhaps hard work. It’s hard to admit how important uncontrollable elements like talent and courage are.