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Tag: parent-child relationships

Short story: “Someone to Watch Over Me”

“Someone to Watch Over Me,” by Nancy Kress

StarShipSofa says this originally appeared in Asimov’s, but the ISFDB says no and so does Lightspeed—it was first in IEEE Spectrum, June 2014 (online here) and was anthologized in Coming Soon Enough: Six Tales of Technology’s Future, edited by Stephen Cass (IEEE Spectrum, 2014); collected in The Best of Nancy Kress (Subterranean Press, 2015); reprinted in Lightspeed, April 2017 (Issue 83) (online here); featured in StarShipSofa No 575, February 13th, 2019

3,215 words by my word processor’s count, 3270 according to Lightspeed

I uncomfortably identify with the protagonist. The way Amanda is willing to use her own baby, the one she should love above all else, in service of her destructive obsession. It’s a good story and I enjoyed it a lot, though I find myself wishing it would go further, make Amanda’s character deeper. When I read genre fiction I miss literary fiction and vice versa.

I didn’t get how Amanda managed to send her ex the video feed at the end, though it was clear that that’s what she was doing.

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Flash fiction story: “A House with Mughal-Style Doors”

“A House with Mughal-Style Doors,” by Cathy Ulrich

Appeared in matchbook, February 2019

332 words

I love how you know from the first paragraph that the daughter is dead, and the story never actually tells us that. The mention of kitchen matches and the phrase “the white box with the red” instead of the brand name seem to imply that Deirdre’s mother didn’t smoke until now. The repetition of “After the party” strikes me as very effective. That last repeated line also works for me, although I find it a little less original than the rest of the piece.

I like the author’s note.

Short story: “Bad Vibrations”

“Bad Vibrations,” by Tiffany Michelle Brown

Originally in the anthology Alternate Hilarities: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife (edited by Giovanni Valentino, Strange Musings Press, 2016); featured in Toasted Cake 211, February 10th, 2019

Not sure how many words

Talk about relatable. I guess this could only work as a short piece, since even at this length I was grappling with the dissonance of feeling amused and embarrassed while watching a mother grieve for her (adult) child/a lively young person come to terms with her death. On the other hand, if it were a longer piece, perhaps it could have achieved a dramedy feel, developing the mother’s character while keeping up the humor.

Flash fiction story: “When Mummy Visits”

“When Mummy Visits,” by Felicia Wulandari

Every Day Fiction, February 10th, 2019

983 words

I had a hard time understanding this one, but I was impressed with the writing. I think it’s the story of a man who’s had a fraught relationship with his mother since childhood and now struggles to accept her. It seems she verbally abused him, or perhaps was merely incoherent and frightening due to a mental illness, and he physically attacked her in response, and now he perhaps feels guilty.

Short story: “Blessed Are the Forgetful”

“Blessed Are the Forgetful,” by C.A. Schaefer

Necessary Fiction, January 30th, 2019

2,731 words

The second paragraph, that one line, grabbed me. A thoughtful and striking piece.

Flash fiction story: “Hold Your Breath”

“Hold Your Breath,” by Spencer Litman

X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, February 4th, 2019

326 words

Really good. And always interesting to see some second-person imperative.

Flash fiction story: “Marie’s Lovely Picture”

“Marie’s Lovely Picture,” by Robert Norton

Every Day Fiction, January 30th, 2019

967 words

I found the child’s deflections and imagination charming, and the last line is nice. I wish I could tell this well-meaning father to quit pressuring her. He should be defending her from his mother’s demands, not enabling them.

Short story: “Coffins for Kids!”

“Coffins for Kids!”, by Wendy Rawlings

Appeared in the Kenyon Review, Jan/Feb 2019, Volume XLI Number 1, and read aloud on their podcast (scroll down)

Less than 32 minutes on the podcast

Wow. A harsh story. To be honest, the opening left me cold, unlike the opening of “People Like That Are the Only People Here,” which takes a similar approach—I don’t know why; certainly the main character’s articulate anger and disbelief make sense to me, intellectually. It just felt like too much—something about that articulacy combined with the rawness of the emotion. It could be it didn’t work for me because I personally am not prepared for or even capable of feeling the rage and grief of losing a child to violence. But as the story went on, I got on board.

This is a great line: “It was the only bullet she had.”

I’ve been to the NRA headquarters range, so it was a little unsettling to hear it described, like wandering around and accidentally stumbling on a familiar place. I should add that I no longer patronize the NRA. Their leadership is a pack of monsters and they represent only extremists and greedy corporations.

Short story: “The Gifts of War”

“The Gifts of War,” by Margaret Drabble

Appeared in Winter’s Tales 16 in 1970; collected in A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: Complete Short Stories; also in the anthology Into the Widening World: International Coming-of-Age Stories, edited by John Loughery

About 16 pages in my library’s copy of A Day in the Life; ? words

A story of accidental cruelty that has stuck with me for years. Now that I think about it, the plot sort of reminds me George Saunders’ “Puppy,” but this story is quieter and the heartbreak happens onstage, from an outsider’s point of view. The clash between different social classes is similar too. As in “Puppy,” the point of view stays close to one character and then switches to another about halfway through, at a section break. This story is way more successful at differentiating the two voices.

If there’s a social message/satire intended here, I don’t get it. The title and epigraph seem out of place to me. I see it as loss-of-innocence story, with the college kids’ naive politics being nothing more of a foil for the unhappy woman’s jadedness and involuted life. Joyce Carol Oates actually described this as “an antiwar story” in the New Yorker, so consider me entirely out of the loop on this one.

I first read this in the coming-of-age anthology mentioned above, and I’m still not sure which character is supposed to be coming of age.

Novelette: “Waiting for Kizer”

“Waiting for Kizer,” by Joyce Carol Oates

Appeared in Conjunctions:71, A Cabinet of Curiosity, Fall 2018

25 pages in the magazine, which makes approximately 13,225 words

Very odd. The canoe accident must be the point of divergence between the three men, in which case (Maynard) must be going by his middle name. But the oddity starts before (Matt) and (Matthew) even meet, when Smith has two very similar but not identical interactions with the hostess. It would seem as though he’d had a bout of amnesia—a stroke perhaps—except that the hostess would have to have suffered simultaneously from the same affliction. There’s another switch when the joke is told twice, and another when the first two men meet (Maynard) twice. So two breaks with realism: doppelgängers from drastically different timelines (each branching off from the canoe) and jumps across very subtly different timelines (between some of the numbered sections).

The effect is not what I would call dreamlike—it’s too matter of fact, too “realistic,” despite the Oatesian narration that occasionally, in small ways, flirts with stream of consciousness: some very short paragraphs and some eccentric mental leaps. If I were reading this in a science fiction magazine under another byline, I would expect at least a hint of an explanation, perhaps an accident with a dimension-hopping machine.

More oddity: There’s a hint that (Matt)’s son is either a suicide bomber or a victim of a bomb threat prank. And then (Matthew) implies that he knows something about (Matt)’s son that’s painful to (Matt) and his wife—is that a third break from realism? And (Matt) doesn’t seem quite sure whether his wife had a miscarriage early in their marriage, which is a pretty wild thing to forget, and then he recalls her accusing him of “coercing her into having children” after painting quite the opposite portrait—another break?

All in all, a satisfyingly mystifying puzzle. But is it more than that? I fear I’m selling it short. Is it also a psychological portrait of Smith, expressed as the meeting of his potential other selves? There are also allusions to Godot and “The Metamorphosis” (I feel a little pretentious just pointing them out). They seem to exist just to hint at the absurd and the uncanny.

I notice the first two men both have watches as well as cell phones. I wonder if that’s typical of men their age.