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Tag: child characters

Short story: “Under the Wave”

“Under the Wave,” by Lauren Groff

Appeared in the New Yorker, July 9th & 16th, 2018, and read by the author on The Writer’s Voice (read and listen)

Several thousand words

Wow, this is so interesting. I wonder if the woman has a plan for when the child reaches puberty. She seems like she doesn’t look beyond the present moment much; if she did, she might be overwhelmed by grief for the past.

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Short story: “What You Eat”

“What You Eat,” by Ben Ehrenreich

First appeared in BOMB Magazine, April 1st, 2003 (online here); anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004; apparently also made into a film

4,440 words, a little over ten pages in BANR

Oh, I like this. The kid seems to have a compulsive need to push boundaries—first with his slingshot, then with his incredible perversity at the end. You’d think giving his father the scare of his life would be enough, but he has to go all the way, and I like that.

I wonder if many kids brought up in rigidly authoritarian households end up boundary-pushing like this?

Short story cycle/fictional essay: “Good World”

“Good World,” by John Haskell

Appeared in Blind Spot, issue 23, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004

Ten and two thirds pages in BANR, which probably means it’s in the range of four thousand words

That “powerlessness and optimism” is heavy stuff. How can we change our habits, make ourselves good? The little girl in the well seems to know, or perhaps it’s not knowledge but something else that makes her abruptly choose to act. The woman Anne is trapped in her habits. Laika’s habits make her happy—don’t they?—as well as good.

What is a good world?

Short story: “Algorithmic Problem-Solving in Father-Daughter Relationships”

“Algorithmic Problem-Solving in Father-Daughter Relationships,” by Xuan Juliana Wang

Appeared in Ploughshares, Volume 41, Number 2, Summer 2015, guest-edited by Lauren Groff (on Project MUSE); anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

Several thousand words; 14.5 pages in BANR

I really like the style and premise; you can’t help but enjoy this guy’s approach, his blinkered determination. I was disappointed however that the daughter didn’t reappear in the present day. I wanted the closure of knowing whether she forgave him. At the end, the little flashback to her childhood does provide a solution to his problem—the imaginative empathy he habitually lacks. But does he realize that? And is it too late?

Short story: “Shadehill”

“Shadehill,” by Mark Hitz

Appeared in Glimmer Train #92, Winter 2015; this and another story won the author the $50,000 Keene Prize for Literature; it was also anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

A few thousand words; 10 and 2/3 pages in BANR

When I first read this I thought the girl had drowned, like her namesake, and that the grandfather’s unforgivable crime was neglect. Then, skimming through it a second time, I suddenly made the connection with the beaver—then the cemetery by the shooting range—then the grandfather’s refusal to wear glasses, and that terrible encounter at the funeral—and also “her poor unmade head” (I had to go back and check to make sure I’d gotten that word right, what a word, “unmade”). I like a story that makes me go back and reread parts of it, like a mystery novel that cleverly disguises its clues. The emotional journey, too—pardon the hackneyed and almost ludicrous expression—is excellent, like rising and falling music. I wouldn’t say I felt the sick horror and disorientation the family goes through, I’m more detached than that, but I feel like I understand the exact texture of their experience.

I find it interesting that before we see Ophelia’s twin go into the water, we learn that she survives. We just don’t know exactly what happens to her, which is suspense enough.

Tagging this “first-person minor narration” because I think the central character is the family as a whole, not the narrator.

I haven’t read anything from Glimmer Train in a long time—I dislike their use of author photos—but obviously they’re a very good magazine. They invited Hitz to write a short essay on craft, in which he said:

“The two things that have sustained me in my writing (which until recently has been mostly a private, even secretive activity) are my evolving obsessions with various works of literature in relationship to my life, and my own subjective discoveries regarding craft. To put it another way, the most important and lasting lessons I’ve learned about writing were not imparted to me, but rather won through the long, circular process of reading closely, putting words to paper (or failing to put words to paper), and doing my best to return everything to life. Many of these personal lessons, which I am constantly revising, would likely sound simplistic, or even absurd, if I tried to explain them here.”

The humblest commentary on craft is, in my opinion, the best. (Edited to add: Turns out he said this and I quoted it way back in 2013.)

Flash fiction story: “Milestones”

“Milestones,” by Janice Leagra

Appeared here in Spelk, February 5th, 2018

416 words

Oh man. Really good portrait of a fucked-up parent-child relationship. On my first read I was picturing the “you” as a father for some reason, but I think it’s actually a mother. I was slightly distracted at the end wondering how the narrator was speaking from beyond the grave, but whatever.

Short story: “Teddy Bears and Tea Parties”

“Teddy Bears and Tea Parties,” by S. Boyd Taylor

Appeared in ChiZine #41, July 2009; read in Drabblecast 146, January 14th, 2010, and in a Drabblecast Director’s Cut episode, June 26th, 2018; also published as a Kindle book and available on Scribd

A few thousand words

Eh, I wasn’t a huge fan of this one. Feels like weirdness for weirdness’ sake. Not that it’s not well written; it certainly succeeds in being original as horror.

I got a craving after listening to this, and ended up having a bagel with grape jelly. Delicious.

Short story: “Dogface in Ice”

“Dogface in Ice,” by Timothy Mudie

Read by Andrew Leman in StarShipSofa No 555, September 19th, 2018

Several thousand words

I like this. The ending is maybe a little predictable, but good.

Flash fiction story: “Ndakusuwa”

“Ndakusuwa,” by Blaize Kaye

Appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination #237, November/December 2016 (the magazine would appear to be defunct now); nominated for a 2017 Nommo Award by the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS); later appeared in Strange Horizons, September 3rd, 2018 (read/listen)

857 words

A simple and effective form.

I would have liked the last line better if I’d known “ndakusuwa” means “I miss you” in the ChiShona language. But perhaps that line isn’t aimed at a monolingual person like me.

More (untitled) microfictions from Nanoism

“on a card written in crayon:”, by Cynthia Day

Appeared in Nanoism, June 6th, 2018

22 words

I adore this. (Spoilers….) At first I took it for the love note of a rather daffy adult. It was only on a reread that I got who the writer of the card was.

“I wouldn’t wash her handprint off the window,” by Shane Olivieri

Appeared in Nanoism, June 27th, 2018

24 words

I like the implication that the narrator is deep in denial—or rather, was. Perhaps this is about a child who refuses to visit her noncustodial parent after the divorce.

“Today was okay,” by Daniel Galef

Appeared in Nanoism, January 8th, 2014

28 words

Ouch.

I like the filename.