“The Burrow” (“Der Bau”), by Franz Kafka
First published posthumously in 1931, with the first English translation coming out in 1933; the Muirs’ translation is online here
Maybe it’s because I was in a bad mood, but earlier today, reading Michael Hofmann’s translation, I felt as though the narrator of “The Burrow” were my only friend.
“Agnes of Iowa,” by Lorrie Moore
Appeared in Granta 54: Best of Young American Novelists, June 20th, 1996 (online here)
I like the use of repetition here:
Over the next six years she and Joe tried to have a baby, but one night at dinner, looking at each other in a lonely way over the meat loaf, they realized with a shock that they probably never would. Nonetheless they still tried, vandalizing what romance was left in their marriage.
‘Honey,’ she would whisper at night when he was reading under the reading lamp, and she had already put her book away and curled toward him, wanting to place the red scarf over the lampshade but knowing it would annoy him and so not doing it. ‘Do you want to make love? It would be a good time of month.’
And Joe would groan. Or he would yawn. Or he would already be asleep. Once, after a long hard day, he said, ‘I’m sorry, Agnes. I’m just not in the mood.’
She grew exasperated. ‘You think I’m in the mood?’ she said. ‘I don’t want to do this any more than you do.’ He looked at her in a disgusted way, and it was two weeks after that they had the identical sad dawning over the meat loaf.
My instinct would have been to avoid repeating the meat loaf line, and I would have missed something: the sadness of the moment coming back sadder the second time.
“The Golden Age,” by Mark Doten
Appeared in n+1, September 16th, 2016 (!)
“I really need to thank the generals—can I take a moment to thank the generals? These generals we’ve got, they are amazing, and they’ve said to me, we’re so glad it’s you. In every single branch of the military we have, we have these generals, and what a job they are doing. What an amazing job. And what they’re saying to me is that this is a very small little bomb that’s being used over there, a small nuclear device, and what we’ve got, it’s so much bigger. You run down the line with what’s happening in these places around the world. These are almost all very small little bombs, and even the ones that are a little more serious, even those, ours are much, much bigger, so people can understand that we are in control of the situation, and we are going to have a very, very successful number of days.”
Towards the end, the familiar voice of the president starts to wear down and uncharacteristic eloquence shines through—perhaps because the alternative is ever-increasing incoherence.
“The Meat Suit,” by Garth Risk Hallberg
Appeared April 25th, 2017 in Granta 139: Best of Young American Novelists 3 (online here)
Great last line.
In the second section, “middle-school dance” stopped me short because, despite several other hints to the character’s age, I was picturing her quite a bit older than fourteen (and I think she’s actually more like thirteen). There’s no attempt to channel the character’s voice the way a third-person YA novel would, and for that reason the narration feels a little disembodied to me. In fact, Jolie doesn’t get much of a voice at all, apart from her very real conversation with Precious.
“The great British novelist Graham Greene said that all good novelists have bad memories. What you remember comes out as journalism. What you forget goes into the compost of the imagination.”
—From Where You Dream, by Robert Olen Butler
“[F]or me, making progress on a book, and not getting overwhelmed and derailed by the daunting task of writing an entire book, comes down to finding, achieving, and maintaining a sense of daily momentum—no matter if the progress is large or small, and most of the time, in my case at least, it’s the latter situation.”
—Andrew Roe (x)