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Novel excerpt: “Bastard Alias the Romantic”

“Bastard Alias the Romantic,” by Yuri Herrera, translated from Spanish by Lisa Dillman

Excerpted from The Transmigration of Bodies (from the publisher And Other Stories); appeared in Granta, June 27th, 2016, online here

4,207 words

I thought at first that this was a short story, and perhaps it doesn’t stand on its own that well, since I didn’t really get it as a story. I guess it’s about the creeping fear of death, and the way people avoid or repress it?

I think he rapes her, briefly, at the end, but it’s hard to tell. In any case he deliberately exposes them both to the possibility of catching the plague.

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Not to make any endorsement of de Sade as a person or a writer, but: On encouragement

“Nothing quite encourages as does one’s first unpunished crime.”

120 Days of Sodom, by the Marquis de Sade

Short story: “Beauty, a Terrible Story”

“Beauty, a Terrible Story,” by Caio Fernando Abreu, translated by Bruna Dantas Lobato

First appeared in 1989 in the collection The Dragons Haven’t Been to Paradise; appeared in English in Words without Borders: The Online Magazine of International Literature, July 2016

3,086 words, counting the epigraph but not counting the dedication

I admire the way this story avoids making any explicit (or even nearly explicit) statement about the main character’s situation. He keeps trying to tell her and failing. You can feel the weight of his silence.

Found via the Ploughshares blog.

“I remember translating the last scene of the story, when the protagonist “ran his fingertips along his neck, […] groping for a seed in the dark.’ Afterward, I realized that I’d placed my own hand on the right side of my neck like the protagonist. The experience wasn’t romantic or magical, but it served as a reminder that I was inhabiting someone else’s world, and that I could trust the reader to feel the story as intensely as I’d felt it, no further explanation needed.”

—the translator (x)

Short story: “Again”

“Again,” by Ramsey Campbell

Originally appeared in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine (which ran from 1981 to 1989); featured in PseudoPod 550, July 7th, 2017; apparently anthologized all over the place, including in Vile Things from Comet Press

Maybe 5000 words?

A truly creepy story, repellent and fascinating. It gets a lot of its force, I can’t help but feel, from the reader’s discomfort with kinky sex and with old people having sex lives at all.

Short story: “Degrees of Beauty”

“Degrees of Beauty,” by Cassandra Khaw

Appeared in Terraform, October 27th, 2016

950 words

Creepy. I was a little confused by the first paragraph, and I found the ending a little too hard to believe (given the nature of the surgeries described up to that point), but overall I liked it.

Short story: “Flyover Country”

“Flyover Country,” by Tim Maughan

Appeared in Terraform, November 25th, 2016

2,302 words

A chilling premise and an ingenious plot.

Science fiction publication: Terraform

What: Terraform, a production of Vice‘s Motherboard that puts out one fiction piece per week
When: 2014? to present
Who: Looks like it’s edited by Claire Evans and Brian Merchant, or at least was at the start; the story commentaries are currently by Becky Ferreira
How: Free online, plastered with ads—each story is interrupted by multiple ads, it feels like
$: The impressive sum of $0.20 a word
Typefaces: Open Sans, CalvertMTBold, TazuganeGothic

A fun read. I’m not a big fan of the commentaries, which basically rehash the themes or the science fictional elements of the stories.

Standouts:

Short story: “Rape Fantasies”

“Rape Fantasies,” by Margaret Atwood

Appeared in Dancing Girls & Other Stories (McClelland & Stewart, 1977); also in The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women in 1985; PDF here

4,166 words

Is this about rape fantasies at all? It seems more like just a darkly funny piece about a character who’s bad at fantasizing. Then again, it’s Margaret Atwood, and some readers have found a deeper meaning in it, about the character’s genuine fear:

“As the story ends, we realize that Estelle all along has been in a bar, speaking to a man she has just met, worrying about the possibility she will be raped by him. ‘Like, how could a fellow do that to a person he’s just had a long conversation with, once you let them know you’re human, you have a life too, I don’t see how they could go ahead with it, right?’ (110). We are left wondering whether all these ‘conversations’ are Estelle’s deliberate inventions, her way of trying to control a potentially dangerous social interaction.”

—Delese Wear and Felice Aull (x)

Novelette: “Isis in Darkness”

“Isis in Darkness,” by Margaret Atwood

Appeared in Granta 31: The General, April 26th, 1990 (online here); collected in Wilderness Tips, published in 1991 by McClelland & Stewart

8,056 words

A beautiful story. Bleak, but with a note of hope at the end, the hope that at least Richard can piece together some semblance of the thing he loved so much, hope in the very fact that amid the mess he’s made of his life, he can still love at all.

Here’s a good post about it.

Short story: “Blacamán the Good, Vendor of Miracles”

“Blacamán the Good, Vendor of Miracles,” by Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa

Appeared in Esquire, January 1972 (published online here in honor of the author’s death in 2014); also in Collected Stories; also online here, although I think there are some paragraph breaks missing

3,746 words in English

I liked this a lot better than “Curlews” or the other Márquez story I’ve read. It’s darkly whimsical.