Tag: parent-child relationships

Novel excerpt/novelette?: “The Luck of Kokura”

“The Luck of Kokura,” by Gary Shteyngart

Excerpted from Lake Success, published in the New Yorker (June 25th, 2018) and on The Writer’s Voice

9,315 words

A portrait of an asshole who doesn’t know he’s an asshole, and perhaps for that reason is strangely likable. And of a friendship, limited though it is, a genuine friendship between two assholes.

The title underlines the thoughtless assholery of the two men—Jeff Park’s pleasure at the good fortune of Kokura at Nagasaki’s expense. Is that the whole point of the story, the way we can fail to recognize our own selfishness and smallness (I can’t come up with a better word than smallness, somehow—I mean a certain narrowness of outlook)? Barry doesn’t learn anything from his experience, does he? He’s simply defeated. I suppose there’s hope that he will return to his wife and make a not totally unsuccessful attempt to be a good father. Have to read the novel to find out.


Short story: “Some Things I Probably Should Have Mentioned Earlier”

“Some Things I Probably Should Have Mentioned Earlier,” by Laura Pearlman

First appeared in Mothership Zeta, May 2016; read live at Worldcon for Escape Pod 650, October 18th, 2018

1,767 words

Ha! Good piece. The live reading format didn’t hurt. I like hearing audience reactions.

Short story: “Under the Wave”

“Under the Wave,” by Lauren Groff

Appeared in the New Yorker, July 9th & 16th, 2018, and read by the author on The Writer’s Voice (read and listen)

Several thousand words

Wow, this is so interesting. I wonder if the woman has a plan for when the child reaches puberty. She seems like she doesn’t look beyond the present moment much; if she did, she might be overwhelmed by grief for the past.

Short story: “What You Eat”

“What You Eat,” by Ben Ehrenreich

First appeared in BOMB Magazine, April 1st, 2003 (online here); anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004; apparently also made into a film

4,440 words, a little over ten pages in BANR

Oh, I like this. The kid seems to have a compulsive need to push boundaries—first with his slingshot, then with his incredible perversity at the end. You’d think giving his father the scare of his life would be enough, but he has to go all the way, and I like that.

I wonder if many kids brought up in rigidly authoritarian households end up boundary-pushing like this?

Short story: “Algorithmic Problem-Solving in Father-Daughter Relationships”

“Algorithmic Problem-Solving in Father-Daughter Relationships,” by Xuan Juliana Wang

Appeared in Ploughshares, Volume 41, Number 2, Summer 2015, guest-edited by Lauren Groff (on Project MUSE); anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

Several thousand words; 14.5 pages in BANR

I really like the style and premise; you can’t help but enjoy this guy’s approach, his blinkered determination. I was disappointed however that the daughter didn’t reappear in the present day. I wanted the closure of knowing whether she forgave him. At the end, the little flashback to her childhood does provide a solution to his problem—the imaginative empathy he habitually lacks. But does he realize that? And is it too late?

Flash fiction story: “Milestones”

“Milestones,” by Janice Leagra

Appeared here in Spelk, February 5th, 2018

416 words

Oh man. Really good portrait of a fucked-up parent-child relationship. On my first read I was picturing the “you” as a father for some reason, but I think it’s actually a mother. I was slightly distracted at the end wondering how the narrator was speaking from beyond the grave, but whatever.

Flash fiction story: “Up Next, the Mick”

“Up Next, the Mick,” by Hall Sullivan

Appeared in PANK 13 (I can’t find a date on this issue, but it came out just recently)

A single page in PANK‘s PDF edition

Man, I hope the plan works and doesn’t get them in worse trouble. I would have liked to see what happened next, but it’s good flash fiction. And somehow not showing what happens next suits PANK’s aesthetic.

Short story: “The White Spot”

“The White Spot,” by Jonathan Blum

Appeared in the Kenyon Review, Sept/Oct 2018; read, I think by the author, for the Kenyon Review Out Loud: Audio Selections from the Kenyon Review podcast—listen here

A few thousand words?

This is so good. I wonder what the old anti-Semite was thinking, hearing that story? Did it move her at all? Did she hate the two of them more than ever?

It’s certainly wrong for the father to use his son this way, exposing him to anti-Semitism at such an early age, and to torment a dying woman, however vile she may be. But how human of him!

Flash fiction story: “Hurt and Be Hurt”

“Hurt and Be Hurt,” by Geoff Schmidt

Appeared in Zone 3, Vol. 33, No. 1, Spring 2018

A little under three pages, maybe a thousand words?

A wonderfully compact story of losing love. I didn’t really get the reindeer symbolism. Something he shares with his kids and not with his wife and lover? A place in his life where somebody else might fit someday? Maybe.

Short story: “Waypoint”

“Waypoint,” by K. C. Vance

Appeared in Zone 3, Vol. 33, No. 1, Spring 2018

About five and a half pages, maybe a few thousand words?

The way this story is written is interestingly oblique. The downplaying of the lost child, the lost marriage, in favor of the lost parakeets. The marriage, too, seems to have ended because of the pregnancy, so losing the pregnancy must be like losing her husband a second time. A lot of unstated emotion.

I like how we learn that she doesn’t tell her estranged husband about her miscarriage only when we’re told she left a message about the birds.

There was one paragraph where I had trouble with a flashback because it was in simple past tense instead of past perfect. I wish writers would stop avoiding the word “had.” It’s a useful word.