Tag: 1970s

Short story: “Father’s Last Escape”

“Father’s Last Escape,” by Bruno Schulz, translated from the Polish by Celina Wieniewska

Originally collected in Street of Crocodiles; appeared in the New Yorker (online here), January 2nd, 1978; PDF here; read by Nicole Krauss in the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, February 2012

Probably 2,000 words or even less

I listened to this a long time ago and it never completely left me. It makes me think of a parent slowly giving way to Alzheimer’s or some similar mind-wasting disease, so that the survivors bid him goodbye a little bit at a time, first one memory, then another. (I’m not the first to make this comparison.)


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.


Short story: “The Night of the Curlews”

“The Night of the Curlews,” by Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa

This translation appeared in the New Yorker, April 17th, 1978 (online here), and in Collected Stories (1984)

Perhaps 1000 words?

I’m not sure I really get Gabriel García Márquez. This story is well written but enigmatic to the point where I give up on figuring it out. Maybe it’s an absurd joke.

I like the opening, where the narrator implies that something terrible has happened without saying what it is.

Apparently this story gets echoed or reused in One Hundred Years of Solitude.


Science fiction publication: Asimov’s Science Fiction

What: Asimov’s Science Fiction, a print science fiction magazine with a digital edition
When: 1977–present
Who: Founded by Isaac Asimov himself, currently edited by Sheila Williams; doesn’t have a masthead on the website
How: Subscriptions start at $17.49 for six months
$: 8–10 cents per word for short stories up to 7,500 words, and 8 cents for each word over 7,500
Typefaces: On the website, Lato, Roboto

I haven’t read many issues of Asimov’s—in fact, I’m not a hundred percent sure I’ve read even one—but Asimov’s stories get reprinted so often that I’ve absorbed a lot about the magazine indirectly.

“SF dominates the fiction published in the magazine, but we also publish borderline fantasy, slipstream, and surreal fiction.”



On who gets called narcissistic

“‘[N]arcissism’ is a word that’s sometimes used to assert a diagnostic power over someone, or a group of people, who are perceived as having too much, or asking for too much. When I started reading, I noticed that Freud’s narcissists were women and gay men. As I was writing, others published deeper research about this. The historian Elizabeth Lunbeck’s The Americanization of Narcissism tracks how, in psychoanalysis, ‘narcissism’ was a construct that helped to pathologize homosexuality and femininity. In her review of that book, Vivian Gornick wrote about marching for equal rights, in the 70s, and then having Christopher Lasch condemn feminism as narcissistic. You say ‘we’re here, too,’ and someone whose power is threatened is going to say ‘you’re too self-absorbed.’ The book launch for The Selfishness of Others was in a historically African-American neighborhood, Ft. Greene, from which so many have been displaced, and the majority of people at the launch looked to be what we call ‘white.’ During the Q & A, a person of color in the audience pointed this out, and afterwards about twenty white people came up to tell me they thought that person was a narcissist, for ‘interrupting’ the event to talk about this. So in that way a valid intervention, an important one, is dismissed by claiming the person who makes it is vain, and self-absorbed, or worse, has a mental illness.”

—Kristin Dombek (x)


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 how to respond to a volcano full of baby skulls

“[T]he bad artists, of whom there are many, are whining or moaning or staring, because it’s fashionable, into the dark abyss. If you believe that life is fundamentally a volcano full of baby skulls, you’ve got two main choices as an artist: You can either stare into the volcano and count the skulls for the thousandth time and tell everybody, ‘There are the skulls; that’s your baby, Mrs. Miller.’ Or you can try to build walls so that fewer baby skulls go in. It seems to me that the artist ought to hunt for positive ways of surviving, of living. You shouldn’t lie. If there aren’t any, so far as you can see, you should say so, like the Merdistes. But I don’t think the Merdistes are right—except for Céline himself, by accident, because Céline (as character, not as author) is comic; a villain so outrageous, miserable, and inept that we laugh at him and at all he so earnestly stands for. I think the world is not all merde. I think it’s possible to make walls around at least some of the smoking holes.”

—John Gardner (The Art of Fiction No. 73)


Short story: “The Horse Lord”

“The Horse Lord,” by Lisa Tuttle

First appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in June 1977; collected in A Nest of Nightmares (Sphere Books, 1986; later reprinted as an ebook by Jo Fletcher Books) and in Stranger in the House (Ash-Tree Press, 2010); featured in episode 450 of Pseudopod, August 7th, 2015

Maybe 4,000 words?

I was frustrated with this story. The old Indian burial ground/curse/legend/warning trope just doesn’t age well. One of the Escape Artists staff argues that Tuttle subverts it by making the real monster something older than the tribes, but if that’s true, the warning given by the “brave” is still played totally straight, and the main characters’ indifference towards the Native Americans is still off-putting. I was also annoyed by some minor lapses in prose quality.

I liked the ending, especially the revelation about the monster’s real nature.