“A Little Off the Top,” by Mark Crofton
Appeared in Daily Science Fiction, April 24th, 2018
A charming twist on a familiar plot.
“Everything Is Green,” by David Foster Wallace
Appeared in the collection Girl with Curious Hair, published by W. W. Norton & Company, 1989 (though Goodreads for some reason says November 1st, 1988); then in Harper’s (PDF), September 1989; read by George Carr for Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast; also read and discussed by the Austin Writing Workshop in 2015 in the podcast Saturday Show, episode #87
Less than 700 words, I’m told; less than a page in Harper’s
A thoughtful slice of life. Certainly not the kind of thing I usually expect from Wallace, but he’s a versatile writer.
Curious whether they’re arguing over an affair or perhaps (since Mayfly’s name, as pointed out in a comment here, suggests rapid reproduction) a pregnancy. It doesn’t seem to matter. That post I linked to posits that Mayfly’s name means she will be part of Mitch’s life only fleetingly—though I wonder if that name might instead suggest her youthful flightiness, her tendency to indulge in brief flings and fancies. That could be the source of the friction.
At the end, you can feel how Mitch loves her.
Edited to add: I wonder how authentic the voice is. I don’t know any trailer dwellers, but presumably Wallace knew some. In his essay “Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All,” he seemed contemptuous of a certain type of insulated white lower-class people—”trash,” as I think they’re popularly called—who wear T-shirts with unfunny, sometimes misspelled slogans and want a Republican in the White House. Here, though, you can see his compassionate interest in Mitch and hear the music in Mitch’s voice. I wonder if someone as urbane as Wallace putting on this kind of voice—this kind of life—is necessarily being a little patronizing, a little inauthentic.
Edited again to add: I notice the window is “her window” but the sofa lounger is “my sofa lounger.” Intimacy, the way their separate possessions mingle. But more than that, distance, since he’s separating those possessions in his mind; they’re not “our window” and “our sofa lounger.”
Regarding the Austin Writing Workshop discussion: I disagree that the narrator is inarticulate or sounds drugged. It seems to me he’s expressing almost exactly what he means to express (at least to the reader—he fails to get through to Mayfly) and his thinking is reasonably clear. I think these readers are being misled by the rough simplicity of the style, what they call “redneckese.” I also disagree that Mitch idolizes Mayfly; his attitude towards her feels realistic, though loving, and the ending feels bittersweet to me, tinged with the awareness of their incompatibility. I also disagree that the story is too simple.
Mitch shows an admirable, perhaps unusual emotional openness. Not what you would stereotypically expect from a man of his social class, or any man.
“Columbia Market,” by Paul Beckman
Appeared in Bartleby Snopes and winner of their December 2016 Story of the Month poll
I didn’t really get this, it felt more like a fictional essay than a story. The experiences of this impoverished thirteen-year-old are certainly interesting, but there’s no plot movement.
“My Sister Is Dead and Now Lives on the Moon,” by Meghan Phillips
Appeared in Bartleby Snopes under Featured Stories, possibly published in December 2016?
I like this.
Not sure why Bartleby Snopes doesn’t include the date or issue number in the Featured Stories section.
“The Golden Key,” by Carlea Holl-Jensen
Appeared in FLAPPERHOUSE #17, Spring 2018, March 20th, 2018; online here March 16th
An interesting piece with a great ending. Seems to be about an emotionally reserved/deadened man rediscovering a sense of romance (I mean, not eros romance, but the romance of mystery and delight). I like the way the romantic title contrasts with the mundane appearance of the key in the story. Maybe the key and box have to appear mundane in order to break through the main character’s reserve? A more conventionally fairy-tale-ish golden key and beautifully carved wooden box might have provoked his skepticism or cynicism, too fantastic to be real.
Holl-Jensen is the editor of a magazine by the same title.
Edited to add: I think this story does something unusual—introduces a character’s typical state (emotional reserve) while almost simultaneously showing how that typical state breaks down in the face of an unusual event. It works for me, even though the character’s typical state is more told than shown.
“Dandelions,” by Kate Barss
Appeared in Catapult, March 16th, 2018
328 words, although the magazine’s guidelines say a minimum of 500 words
Not my usual kind of thing, but I was won over by the elegance of the dandelion imagery, the way it suggests the character’s newfound freedom from relationships with men. The fact that the mother is gardening (probably cursing every dandelion she sees) is very apt.