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Tag: magic realism

Short story: “Some Days the Bees Are Melancholic”

“Some Days the Bees Are Melancholic,” by Melissa Goodrich and Dana Diehl

Appeared in The Offing, April 2nd, 2018

3,242 words

I’m sure plenty of teachers have felt like this when a student (or forty-one students) fail(s) to thrive in the classroom. And when the teachers themselves fail the student(s), or feel like they have—not even managing to learn their name(s). (I don’t usually like author bios, but I notice both authors have experience as teachers.)

I wonder how two authors collaborate on this type of piece.

Edited to add: Can you really tap on a tablet with a toothpick?

Edited again to add: I guess the tablet has one of those attached keyboards.

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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.

Short story: “The Specialist’s Hat”

“The Specialist’s Hat,” by Kelly Link

Collected in Pretty Monsters (Canongate Books), which won a Locus Award; the story also won the 1999 World Fantasy Award; read beautifully in Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast

Not sure how many words

This story is so strange I wonder if it originated as a dream. Not the identical twins or their preoccupation with death/Death—those strike me as fairly conventional tropes in horror and the literature of the uncanny. But that hat, which doesn’t look like a hat, and which can mimic any sound … that belongs in the realm of dream. The ending is marvelous, with children’s games and poetry ambiguously bleeding into the real world.

On the difference between fantasy and magical realism

“We are looking for realistic worlds that exhibit some sort of magical or supernatural element taken by the people in that world to be real. If fantasy shows us a world where ghosts exist, magical realism offers up a world where ghosts are pedestrian. In fantasy ghosts are the whole point. In magical realism ghosts are not the whole point.”

—the guidelines for the magazine doppelgänger, edited by James Hodgson

I’ve always struggled with the distinction, so this is helpful.

Short story: “Roadside Attraction”

“Roadside Attraction,” by Erin Dorney

Appeared in Paper Darts, October 19th, 2015 (or possibly September 6th?), online here

683 words

A clever surreal piece.

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.

Short story: “Though She Be But Little”

“Though She Be But Little,” by C. S. E. Cooney

Appeared in Uncanny Magazine, Issue Eighteen, September/October 2017; online here

5792 words

What an odd story. I started reading it in an idle moment and then couldn’t stop. The mysterious silver sky that turns everyone into what they really are is a great device.

I had never heard of Bunco, so some bits of the story were more opaque to me than others.

Cooney on the creative process:

I’d almost forgotten the origin story of this story by the time I finally finished it three years later. I’ve reconstructed most of the pieces since then, but what I can tell you for sure about it is, when I stumbled across the first three scenes from ‘Though She Be But Little’ in January earlier this year (then titled ‘The Post-Argentum Face-Off of Emma Anne and the Loping Man’), when I was looking for inspiration in my ‘To Be Finished’ folder, I had no idea where this story came from, why I wrote it, what I was thinking, and how the heck I meant to finish it. 

“Totally clueless. I just read through it, barked out a giggle-cuss, and then Carlos Hernandez, who was in the other room asked, ‘What happened? Why are you laughing?’ 

“To which I replied something like, ‘I just found the weirdest half of a story I ever wrote in my whole life—including The Big Bah-Ha!—which is saying something!!!—and I have no memory of writing it.’

“I was having the experience, I realized, of coming to my own writing the way an absolute stranger would.”

On the tastes of the editorial staff of The Paris Review

batra829

What trends in recent poetry and fiction do you find yourselves rejecting, not just as editors, but also as readers? In the recent Refinery29 story, Lorin [Stein] says, “I would describe my look as ‘realistic.’ Low on whimsy. Low on flash. It may be coincidence, but that describes my taste in fiction and poetry, too.” Is that true for the rest of you?

theparisreview

“I personally dislike speculative fiction, alternate realities, and so forth.” —Sadie [Stein, deputy editor]

“Suburban malaise.” —Justin [Alvarez, digital director]

“I kind of like suburban malaise, but I wish I’d said my look was Adlai Stevenson.” —Lorin

“Oh, I also hate the obvious specter of childhood sexual abuse hanging over domestic stories.” —Sadie

“I’ll pass.” —Clare [Fentress, assistant editor]

“Oh, and I hate magical-realist food fiction.” —Sadie

“Actually, I hate bored narrators. You can say that about me.” —Clare

(x)

Short story: “Views of My Father Weeping”

“Views of My Father Weeping,” by Donald Barthelme

Appeared in the New Yorker on December 6th, 1969 (subscribers can read here); readable online via public library membership here; collected in Sixty Stories

About eleven pages in this copy of Sixty Stories, which makes it about 4,019 words

I don’t really have anything original to say about this one. I just like it and want it on my blog.

I also like Michael Zeitlin’s essay on Barthelme and need to quote it.

I remember once we were out on the ranch shooting peccadillos (result of a meeting, on the plains of the West, of the collared peccary and the nine-banded armadillo). My father shot and missed. He wept. This weeping resembles that weeping.

[… C]learly, in the context of the story [the wordplay here] is a kind of diversionary tactic (“see how playful, clever, and postmodern I’m being”) transferring our attention away from the underlying parricidal theme which one may infer from the undisguised “content” of the passage, that is, the father’s humiliation. The meaning of that humiliation comes closer to “the real story,” one which is “beneath the surface” only in the sense that its thematic, ideational, and symbolic complexities are precisely what the conspicuous play on “peccadillo” attempts to divert our attention away from. […] In fact, this might be identified as a cardinal principle of [Barthelme’s] art, or at least precisely its point: the shifting of attention away from “central concerns” is a gambit, a ruse, and a deflection[….]