Tag: characters who are writers or artists

Short story: “Colors and Light”

“Colors and Light,” by Sally Rooney

Will appear in the New Yorker March 18th, 2019; read by the author in the March 12th episode of The Writer’s Voice

A few thousand words

Some stories lend themselves well to audio format and some don’t. This one does. I was gripped all the way through by this (I suppose) rather banal story of almost-romance. We know almost exactly how the main character feels about this woman even though we get nothing but his unemotional thoughts—which strikes me as characteristically masculine. At the end, I love that I can’t tell which man Pauline is trying to make jealous. I like to think it’s our hero.

I don’t get the title at all. Something to do with Pauline’s screenwriting?


Short story: “Every True Artist”

“Every True Artist,” by Kai Conradi

Pages 59–72 in The Malahat Review 204, Autumn 2018 (buy print issue/buy digital issue)

Several thousand words

Wow, I don’t know. Yula has hope at the beginning and less and less as time wears on, and yet at the end, she’s undeniably more of an artist than she was. It’s like life’s booby prize.

Gorgeously written, and I love the “aliveness” Yula imagines for the desert.

Novelette: “The New Order”

“The New Order,” by Karen E. Bender

Appeared in a collection of the same title; recommended by Molly Antopol in Electric Literature‘s Recommended Reading, October 31st, 2018

27 pages, according to the commentary; 7,716 words

Oh man, this is intense. Like the narrator, I kept waiting for her to say something about it—an apology, an explanation. So much suspense for such a simple story. I read it pretty fast, wanting to know what happened next, and didn’t realize it was so long. I love the way the character ages in a single sentence: “I was forty, then fifty”—and the way her adolescent lie remains terribly, urgently important to her and to the reader. Clearly I should read more Bender. I loved “Anything for Money,” despite my mild criticism of it.

Tagging this “failures of human connection” even though the two characters do make a connection of sorts.

I’m not sure what the title means to be honest.

I noticed a few typos in the Recommended Reading post. Also, the “Jump to story” link is broken, so you have to scroll quickly past the commentary at the top. In my opinion they should put the commentary at the bottom. Not that I don’t enjoy commentary, I just want to read it after the story.

Short story cycle/fictional essay: “Octet”

“Octet,” by David Foster Wallace

First published without the crucial last question in spelunker flophouse; collected with that question in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Little, Brown and Company, 1999)

Several thousand words

I found this piece effective because it forced me to ask myself very seriously whether I found it effective. The first few pop quiz questions are interesting and necessary to the piece, but I’m really talking about the extremely lengthy last one, which begins, “You are, unfortunately, a fiction writer.” It made me actually anxious, I agonized over the question of how I felt, I even felt guilty because I might not be getting what I was supposed to be getting out of this piece that the intratextual writer character (and, I naturally felt, the extratextual author) was obviously pouring his heart into. Of course, it would be easy to dismiss this, as the text itself suggests, as a bit of cheap manipulation. Same with the author and writer character’s artistic choice to make the numbering of the pop quiz questions illogical, listing them presumably as they were listed in an earlier draft that had all eight questions, deliberately showing the reader the seams and lacunae. But I didn’t resent it. I didn’t feel manipulated. I felt moved.

I certainly wouldn’t feel this way about an adult coming up to me and asking, “Do you like me? Please like me.” I would merely have to decide whether to lie or tell the truth, and would think, This person is really odd.

Flash fiction story: “Snow”

“Snow,” by Kathryn McMahon

The winner of the 2018–19 Ryan R. Gibbs Flash Fiction Award for Flash Fiction, held by New Delta Review, judged by Colin Winnette; read it here in NDR issue 9.1, winter 2018

171 words

A fine, unsettling piece. The last line is such a big reveal about the mother.

Novelette: “The Real Thing”

“The Real Thing,” by Henry James

According to Wikipedia, this was “first syndicated by S. S. McClure in multiple American newspapers” and then appeared in Black and White, which I assume is long since defunct, on April 16, 1892; it was then collected in The Real Thing and Other Tales (1893, McMillan and Co., on Project Gutenberg); also recorded for LibriVox

10,608 words

A charming, if grim, parable about reality’s relationship with “realistic” art. It reminds me of that passage in Dorian Gray in which the gifted young actress loses her ability to play Juliet the moment she falls in love for real. I wonder, though, if this clever reversal of expectations reflects any real truth. Perhaps it is the author’s way of cautioning us against his own work; perhaps he senses that he’s in danger of convincing his readership too easily of the reality of his depictions, of lulling us into complacency; perhaps, like the post-modernists, he wants to remind us, however much more subtly, that we’re reading a story.

Side note: It’s amazing that I don’t already have an “Oscar Wilde” tag. What’s the matter with me?

Short story: “STET”

“STET,” by Sarah Gailey

Appeared in Fireside Magazine, October 2018 (read here); recommended to me by a friend with good taste

1,434 words

I very much admire the use of the form, and the sense of barely restrained fury and grief. I’m reminded of the parents in “People Like That Are the Only People Here” (the coping mechanism feels similar even if the emotion is quite different) and “Incarnations of Burned Children.”

Nice work on Fireside‘s part, formatting this. I wonder how accessible it is to people using screen readers though? I imagine they probably figured something out.

Flash fiction story: “CVS”

“CVS,” by Sean Thor Conroe

Appeared here in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, December 7th, 2018

891 words (feels shorter, possibly because it’s one paragraph)

I really like the mood this captures.

Short story: “A Little Off the Top”

“A Little Off the Top,” by Mark Crofton

Appeared in Daily Science Fiction, April 24th, 2018

662 words

A charming twist on a familiar plot.