Tag: miette’s bedtime story podcast

Short story: “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby”

“Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby,” by Donald Barthelme

Appeared in the New Yorker, May 26th, 1973 (subscribers can read here); collected in Amateurs (Farrar, 1976), and in Forty Stories (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1987), and in a collection of the same title (Penguin Books, 2011); read online here and here; also read on Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast

1,634 words—I would have guessed much shorter

I enjoy Barthelme’s occasional rambling absurdity. “It didn’t rain, the event was well attended, and we didn’t run out of Scotch, or anything.” That “or anything” is good. The last line, with that mention of gratitude, is wonderful.

Note that all the characters seem to be adults, since one of them “runs a car-and-truck-rental business” and the others seem to drink Scotch and know a lot about event planning. They’re all men.

Satire? I dunno, maybe, maybe not. I notice the characters live in a country where the death penalty has been abolished.


Flash fiction story: “Everything Is Green”

“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.

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.

Short story: “Truth and Consequences”

“Truth and Consequences,” by Brendan Gill

Appeared in the New Yorker, September 6th, 1941 (subscribers can read it online); read for Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast, though she calls it “Truth or Consequences”

Maybe 1,500 words?

I’m impressed with the economy of this story. We learn everything relevant about the main character only after the conflict is underway.

Short story: “Lawyer Kraykowski’s Dancer”

“Lawyer Kraykowski’s Dancer” (“Tancerz mecenasa Kraykowskiego”), by Witold Gombrowicz, translated (I think) by Bill Johnson

Written in 1926; first published in the collection Memoirs from a Time of Immaturity in 1933, also in the revised collection Bacacay/Bakakaj in 1957; Johnson’s translation of that collection published in 2004 by Archipelago Books (buy here); read excellently, as always, in Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast

4,037 words in English

That was bizarre and twisted and I loved it.

I can smell Dostoyevsky in here somewhere.

Short story: “The Truth and All Its Ugly”

“The Truth and All Its Ugly,” by Kyle Minor

Published in various places, including The New Black, an anthology of dark fiction edited by Richard Thomas; appeared here on Fifty-Two Stories (Harper Perennial) in the week of March 9th, 2010; read for Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast

6,562 words

This is really good.

The setup in the first sentence doesn’t work the way I want it to. I feel like the story lulls us into believing it takes place in our own present-day world (or something close to it), and then pulls this twist out of nowhere. Maybe that’s the intention, but I don’t like it. What I like is the emotional truth of the story and the narrator’s voice.

Short story: “While the Women Are Sleeping”

“While the Women Are Sleeping,” by Javier Marías, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa

Appeared in the New Yorker on November 2nd, 2009 (online here); read on Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast

7,660 words

So I have a new tag, concealing and revealing the Medusa, to tag stories where there’s a lot of tension generated by getting the reader to believe in something that can never be fully revealed on the page. The horror is too horrifying, the Eden is too Edenic, whatever. I was getting ready to apply that tag when I realized no, it doesn’t fit. This story does reveal its Medusa, and like all naked Medusas, it’s slightly disappointing. Murder! Murder is a letdown, somehow. Domestic violence, violence against an attractive woman, is a letdown. We’ve seen it all before. The sense that madmen walk among us, that murderers let their secrets slip out while their victims are sleeping, isn’t especially new either.

I still adore this story though.

(Edited to add: I listened to this again in July 2018 and was newly charmed. The murder didn’t bother me at all this time, perhaps because I knew it was coming.)

Short story: “Strawberries”

“Strawberries,” by J. Robert Lennon

Read here on Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast

? words

This is such a neat exercise in point of view.

Short story: “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities”

“In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,” by Delmore Schwartz

First appeared in Partisan Review in 1937; collected a few times; PDF online here; read beautifully here on Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast; also available behind some kind of wall on Scribd

Around six pages, not sure how many words


Miette turns out to be a really good curator of short stories. I’m in the process of listening to everything she’s recorded.

On the capacity to see

Where Luisa or I or anyone else saw only repetition and tedium, he must, at every moment, have seen a remarkable spectacle, as multiform, varied, and absorbing as a painting can be when the viewer forgets about the other paintings waiting for him and loses all notion of time, and loses, too, therefore, the habit of looking, which is replaced or supplanted—or, perhaps, excluded—by the capacity to see, which is what we almost never do, because it’s so at odds with the purely temporal.”

—the narrator of “While the Women Are Sleeping,” by Javier Marías, as translated by Margaret Jull Costa (found here and here)