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Tag: 1970s

Short story: “Eva Is Inside Her Cat”

“Eva Is Inside Her Cat,” by Gabriel García Márquez, as translated by J. S. Bernstein

Appeared in the collection Eyes of a Blue Dog in 1972; found in Collected Stories (1984), which was reprinted by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (2008); online here and supposedly here, though I couldn’t get the latter link to open

8 pages (?), 4,280 words (though it feels shorter—my estimate was embarrassingly far off)

I officially don’t understand magic realism. Márquez’s work is beautifully written (at least in translation) and seems psychologically believable, but what’s going on? Perhaps this is not so much a magic realism story as a story that’s deliberately ambiguous about its reality: the protagonist may be dying and becoming a ghost, or she may be experiencing an extreme mental state and hallucinating.

As this commentary on The Reading Life remarks, it’s worth wondering whether a beautiful woman ever really thinks of her beauty this way—whether any beautiful woman has ever written of a similar experience. I feel like fiction by men contains an improbable number of beautiful women who are universally attractive to hetero-attracted men, as though men’s tastes never vary.

At the end it seems (spoilers) that she’s been dead for a long while, death having distorted her sense of time.

I don’t understand the title, since she never seems to get inside the cat. She may already be inside the cat without knowing it, but her experiences don’t seem tinged with catness or with the physicality of the cat.

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Short story: “Flying to America”

“Flying to America,” by Donald Barthelme

Apparently many pieces of this story have appeared in various places, but the story as a whole first appeared in the New Yorker, December 4th, 1971 (available to subscribers here), and was collected in a book of the same title

No idea how many words

There’s so much going on in a (typical) Barthelme story, it’s dazzling. Here it’s all held together by the narrator, with his artistic ambitions and his pull towards Perpetua. What do we do with a story like this? Do we long for the filmmaker to realize his vision? “Well, yes.” Do we long for him to get together with Perpetua? Well … not so much, for me, since his attraction to her feels very conventional, much in the same mold as men’s desire for women in “I Bought a Little City” and “The School”—a placeholder, maybe, for all kinds of desire. I don’t know if I understand any of this.

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.”

Standouts:

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.