Tag: christianity

Short story: “We Have a Pope!”

“We Have a Pope!”, by Christopher Buckley

Appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in April 2003 (online here); anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004

26 pages in BANR, 9,593 words

A fun story, carried along by the voice and personality of the narrator. I didn’t know the Atlantic published this sort of thing. (According to Wikipedia, the Atlantic dropped the “Monthly” soon after this story came out.)

The fact that Buckley was chief speechwriter for the first Bush makes me appreciate this story a little less. Perhaps he’s not putting on the narrator’s hucksterism and dishonesty?


Short story: “The Miracle Years of Little Fork”

“The Miracle Years of Little Fork,” by Rebecca Makkai

Appeared in Ploughshares Summer 2015, guest-edited by Lauren Groff; anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

15 and 2/3 pages in this anthology, several thousand words

A good story about a good man. I like the sadness of the elephant and her poor trainer, of Stella Blunt giving up her child, and the sadness that seems to dog Reverend Hewlett no matter what he does.

Feels typical of Ploughshares, though I’m not sure how a guest-edited magazine can have a typical style.

Short story: “Clap Your Hands”

“Clap Your Hands,” by Andrew F. Kooy

Appeared in issue 107 of Apex Magazine (online here April 3rd, 2018) and read very well on the podcast by Christopher Soren Kelly

3,300 words, according to the magazine

(Spoilers ahead.) A good story, if rather bleak. I didn’t get the ending at first—apparently it’s obvious to the stranger that there shouldn’t be any water here, and the hole was meant for a mass grave.

Flash fiction story: “A Memory of the Christ by the Apostle John”

“A Memory of the Christ by the Apostle John,” by Adam McOmber

Appeared in The Collagist, December 2017

462 words

A vision of an uncaring God, and a miserable Heaven? A tastefully blasphemous story.

Short story: “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”

“A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” by Flannery O’Connor

First published in The Avon Book of Modern Writing (Avon Books, 1953); anthologized in The House of Fiction (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960); collected in A Good Man Is Hard to Find (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1955); anthologized all over the place; online hereread by the author here

6,463 words

I like this story without really knowing what it means. I love the grandmother. She’s so annoying, so unwittingly ridiculous, it’s actually cute.

Wikipedia offers several interpretations of the story. J. Stillwell Powers, on the Ploughshares blog, subscribes to the “moment of grace” one, which I like:

“The grandmother experiences her own dismantling as her family is executed. Her attempts to reason with the Misfit prove futile, and she is forced to confront the failure of her worldview as a means for salvation. Stripped of the perspectives she has clung to, she turns inward for redemption, and, in this moment, sees clearly for the first time. Here lies her moment of grace. Beneath the muzzle of the Misfit’s gun, she suddenly perceives the Misfit’s humanity, recognizing it as her own.”

This seems like the interpretation O’Connor most likely intended. Not to imply that the author’s intention is the last word.

Now Bessie Smith’s great rendition of the song of the same title is stuck in my head.

Short story: “The Conversion of the Jews”

“The Conversion of the Jews,” by Philip Roth

Appeared in The Paris Review (issue 18, Spring 1958), online for subscribers here; collected in Goodbye, Columbus, and Five Short StoriesPDF here

5406 words

A charming story of a child suddenly attaining power and not knowing what to do with it. Stories about children can do this really effectively—show the tension between a child’s need for personal power and their helplessness in the adult world.

According to this, The Paris Review got this story from the slush pile. Goodbye, Columbus was Roth’s first book.

Short story: “The Jesus Singularity”

“The Jesus Singularity,” by Zoltan Istvan

Appeared in Terraform, August 24th, 2016

2,519 words


Short story: “Bad Newes from New England”

“Bad Newes from New England,” by Moaner T. Lawrence

Read by Dave Robison for PseudoPod 466, November 26th, 2015

Probably less than 4,000 words?

Very authentic-feeling setting and voice. I thought the Native American burial grounds thing was a bit meh. Nice, though, to know that payment for the story is going to this charity.

Short story: “A Fairly Decent Man”

“A Fairly Decent Man,” by Charles Turner

Appeared in Image, issue 74

2992 words

The narrator fails and keeps failing to respond to the stranger’s criticism and, I think, also fails to give or receive the blessing he wants. I like to think this is a story about guilt and the defensiveness that arises from guilt. I’m not sure if that’s right though.

Short story: “Leg”

“Leg,” by Steven Polansky

Appeared in the New Yorker on January 24th, 1994 (subscribers can read online); read by David Gilbert for the excellent November 2014 New Yorker Fiction Podcast; anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 1995, edited by Katrina Kennison and guest editor Jane Smiley; reprinted September 25, 2013 as issue no. 71 of Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, thanks to J. Robert Lennon

4,926 words

An amazing story.

David Gilbert describes the main character’s choice as “incredibly passive-aggressive” and ultimately a mistake. I disagree on both counts. I see Dave’s sacrifice as inspired—by God or by his subconscious, it doesn’t matter which—and I think it does save his relationship with his son. On a rational level, it’s senseless, but on the nonrational level of mysticism or Oedipal tensions, it makes perfect sense. He’s chosen the small gate, the narrow road that leads to life.

For Gilbert, the idea that Dave’s pain can alleviate Randy’s is too heavy-handed, too pat, too “O. Henry-esque.” He sees the story as undercutting its central symbol. I take the symbol at face value. For me, it works because Dave’s sacrifice is so huge, so dark, and so ostensibly casual—almost disinterestedly casual.

One thing that complicates (and perhaps inhibits) my understanding of the story is that I identify completely with Randy. I don’t believe he’s “simply going through adolescence,” as Gilbert puts it, or “simply” anything. I feel that Randy needs to see his father debased (or cut down to size, or any other Freudian double entendre you like) before he can tolerate him. In the end, Randy has to choose whether he needs his father to actually die or just get symbolically castrated.

Maybe Randy will end up resenting having to make that choice. Maybe it ultimately hurts him more. For that matter, maybe Randy overheard Dave’s prayer about him; maybe Dave passive-aggressively let him hear it. I don’t know. I feel like everything may be okay, but I don’t know.

This is one of those stories where it’s possible for two readers to interpret it in completely opposite ways, and yet agree that it is a great, great piece, because it’s so well-made and so alive.

Edited to say how much I love the exchange that starts around here: “Randy began to drift in his father’s direction, up the line. Dave watched his unwitting tack with gratitude and wonder.” There are so many ways to interpret Randy’s behavior, for both the readers and Dave.