Tag: novels

Novel excerpt: “Bastard Alias the Romantic”

“Bastard Alias the Romantic,” by Yuri Herrera, translated from Spanish by Lisa Dillman

Excerpted from The Transmigration of Bodies (from the publisher And Other Stories); appeared in Granta, June 27th, 2016, online here

4,207 words

I thought at first that this was a short story, and perhaps it doesn’t stand on its own that well, since I didn’t really get it as a story. I guess it’s about the creeping fear of death, and the way people avoid or repress it?

I think he rapes her, briefly, at the end, but it’s hard to tell. In any case he deliberately exposes them both to the possibility of catching the plague.


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.

Just so I have this straight

According to Wikipedia, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America says:

On how to be Asian enough

“The characters, especially the main character, just do not seem Asian enough. They act like everyone else. They don’t eat Korean food, they don’t speak Korean, and you have to think about ways to make these characters more ’ethnic,’ more different. We get too much of the minutiae of [the characters’] lives and none of the details that separate Koreans and Korean-Americans from the rest of us. For example, in the scene when she looks into the mirror, you don’t show how she sees her slanted eyes, or how she thinks of her Asianness.”

—a note to Leonard Chang on his novel The Lockpickers, from a “legendary” editor (x)

You’d think an editor would trust an Asian author to capture the Asian experience (or rather, his particular experience) accurately.

On writing a novel

“Oftentimes in early drafts, the book is propelled forward by pure longing, which is to say that what I’ve successfully created is a need in the heart of the character. But that need is itself an empty space, and in later drafts I need to flesh out the nature of the need: where did it come from and why is it still unfilled?”

—Rahul Kanakia (x)

Overquoted but still potent

“Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically.”

—John Updike, apparently about Pale Fire

Short story: “The Arrival of John Robert”

“The Arrival of John Robert,” by David Huddle

Appeared in the Harvard Review Online, May 2nd, 2017

3777 words

A fantastic piece. We get the main character’s whole life—that is, every moment of love in her life—in under 4000 words. Guessing this is excerpted from Huddle’s forthcoming novel Hazel.

Short story: “King Kylie”

“King Kylie,” by Jessica Berger

Appeared in Ninth Letter, Summer 2017; online here

1247 words

Kind of reminds me of Joyce Carol OatesFoxfire, an anthem to adolescent passion. Feels like flash fiction.

The opening made me think it would be a speculative piece, with all the slightly surreal teeth imagery.

Short story: “Summer after the War”

“Summer after the War,” by Kazuo Ishiguro

Appeared in Granta 7: Best of Young British Novelists, March 1st, 1983 (online here)

6206 words

Like a lot of Ishiguro’s work, this piece dwells on the irreparable mistakes of the past, and as always in a delicate way, refusing to state them outright. We understand, although the boy does not, that the grandfather’s reputation has been ruined, that he regrets his propaganda work (or perhaps not? perhaps he only regrets the public’s reaction to it), and that he does not have long to live, but he still takes joy and hope from his grandson’s young life.

By the way, congratulations to Ishiguro on the Nobel! Remains of the Day and The Unconsoled are fantastic. The Guardian says he is “currently ‘very deep’ into writing his latest novel, which he is juggling alongside film, theatre and graphic novel projects[,]” so that’s exciting.

On making unconventional art

“There’s this idea that at some point you master how to tell basic stories, and then you can tell masterful stories. But that’s not true. You never master how to tell a basic story. In fact, you never master any part of writing. Mastering something implies that you can do it again and again, without flaws. […]

“Nathalie Sarraute never wrote a ‘standard’ novel with regular rising tension and beginnings and ends and all of that regular stuff, and I don’t believe there’s any evidence that she was capable of that. I don’t think that a person improves as an artist by producing work that they don’t care about ‘just for practice.’ I believe that you always, from the beginning, have to be aiming at doing something that interests you. And some people just aren’t ever going to be able to interest themselves in the standard forms and models for fiction.”

—Rahul Kanakia (x)