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

Fictional essay: “Lists”

“Lists,” by Sofi Stambo

Appeared in AGNI Online in 2015

903 words

AGNI seems to publish a lot of fiction pieces that are more essays than stories. This one is basically a stand-up routine, moving fluidly from one funny idea to the next.

Short story: “The Swear Jar”

“The Swear Jar,” by John Jodzio

Appeared in Monkeybicycle, June 28th, 2013

626 words

The secret lives of the elderly.

Short story: “The Waffle Barn”

“The Waffle Barn,” by Richard Bauer

Appeared in Fabula Argentea, July 3rd, 2016

1,294 words

A good short piece. I like how the wait staff not bothering to take their orders makes the characters seem a little ghostly, a little invisible to the world, and how the line “He’s had a lot to say, actually, over the years” makes the father seem even more so.

Short story: “Lossless”

“Lossless,” by Mark Slutsky

Appeared in The Awl, October 20th, 2015

2,221 words (“10 minute read”)

An eerie story. I like that it feels like a fairly standard online thinkpiece until the end.

On reviewing translations

Some thoughts on reviewing translations (found via Language Hat). I might want to keep these principles in mind for my brief blog entries. I’m happy to say there’s at least one—“Always include the translator’s name in your initial mention of the book”—that I already follow religiously.

Short story: “A Simple Question”

“A Simple Question,” by Francine Prose

Appeared in Conjunctions:53, Fall 2009—Hybrid Histories, readable here; excerpt listenable here

4,948 words


The opening is especially great. It mimics the feeling of waking up from a dream, and then you wonder why he’s dreaming of being interrogated, and then you realize it was an exam in school—except why should an examiner shine a light in a student’s eyes? On a reread, you understand that Vogel is afraid in the same way any human being can be afraid.

I admire the way this story makes Vogel sympathetic without giving him any real virtue or nobility. His detachment and his love of beauty and philosophy could be mistaken for virtues, but the story depicts them as mere qualities or quirks of his character.

Fictional essay: “Bestiary”

“Bestiary,” by Thomas Wharton

Appeared recently in AGNI Online

2748 words

A series of thoughtful and unsettling anecdotes about animal life. The way the spider bit ends is particularly troubling to me, presenting the author (I mean, the fictional author) in a new light.

I think this is supposed to be a short story with a structure similar to that of “Mantis Wives,” but I don’t think it succeeds as such (it reminds me more of “The Apartment Dweller’s Bestiary”). I could call it a short story cycle, but that doesn’t seem right either, since most parts come across more as anecdotes than as flash fiction stories.

Short story: “Blood Feather and Soft Feather”

“Blood Feather and Soft Feather,” by Melissa Monks

Won third place in the Flash Felon contest at The Molotov Cocktail

399 words

Enjoyably weird.

Short story: “Emergency”

“Emergency,” by Denis Johnson

Appeared in the New Yorker, September 16th, 1991 (subscribers can read here); collected in Jesus’ Son (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992; Harper Perennial, 1993; Picador); anthologized in The Vintage Book of American Short Stories, edited by Tobias Wolff (1994); read for the May 2009 episode of the New Yorker Fiction Podcast by Tobias Wolff; reprinted in Narrative

3571 words

This isn’t exactly my favorite kind of story, but it’s stuck with me in the years since I first heard it on the New Yorker podcast. The painfully doomed fetal rabbits. The vision of angels over the graveyard. That line “I thought it was something else”—the kind of cautious thing you say when you know you could make a fool of yourself.


On trusting one’s temperament

“I don’t write every day—I write when I’m burning with an idea. I don’t really want to write novels—I prefer stories. These are temperamental issues. When I was young I didn’t trust my temperament, or I didn’t understand it, and therefore wasted time fretting about what I didn’t do well rather than simply trusting what I did do well.”

—Antonya Nelson (x)