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Tag: short stories

On prose quality

“Sometimes [what draws me into a story is] a matter of style, but not always, since a compelling world can survive clumsy or awkward writing, as in Poe or David Foster Wallace (in Wallace’s case the awkwardness is deliberate, of course). “

—Iain Higgins, member of The Malahat Review‘s fiction board

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Short story: “Moon-Face”

“Moon-Face: A Story of Mortal Antipathy,” by Jack London

Appeared in the newspaper The Argonaut July 21st in either 1902 or 1906; read as part of PseudoPod 589: Flash On The Borderlands XLII: Misanthropes, April 6th, 2018; also online here

2,253 words

A good creepy yarn. Reminds me of Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart,” where the narrator wants to kill the old man for no reason except that there’s something about his eye.

Short story: “A Little Off the Top”

“A Little Off the Top,” by Mark Crofton

Appeared in Daily Science Fiction, April 24th, 2018

662 words

A charming twist on a familiar plot.

Short story: “Lonely Robot on a Rocket Ship in Space”

“Lonely Robot on a Rocket Ship in Space,” by A. Merc Rustad

Appeared in Cicada Magazine in 2016; read by Christopher Cornell for Escape Pod 615 (see the text for visuals like emoticons and Byron’s typed-out messages)

4,299 words

A sweet story, if rather predictable. Judging from the Escape Pod forum discussion, transgender people really identify with it.

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.

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.

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 Good Mothers’ Home for Wayward Girls”

“The Good Mothers’ Home for Wayward Girls,” by Izzy Wasserstein

Read by Tatiana Grey for PseudoPod 588 as part of ARTEMIS RISING 4, March 30th, 2018

3,536 words

A good creepy story.

I like the way Grey gives each of the girls a distinct voice.

Short story: “Restroom”

“Restroom,” by Kim Gibson

Appeared in Defenestration, December 20th, 2017

2,746 words

A charming story of unexpected kindness. Tight and fast-paced enough to feel shorter than it is.

I found the narrator enjoyable even though he starts out cynical and hostile towards this perfectly innocent stranger. I’ve been working on a story with a similar character arc, and I’m curious what makes a reader keep reading when the main character at first seems unlikable. In this case, perhaps the humor woven into the character’s cynical commentary.

Flash fiction story: “Caged In”

“Caged In,” by Adam Millard

Appeared in Defenestration, December 20th, 2017

1008 words, but I’ll round down and count it as flash fiction

Charmingly silly, though I feel like the ending could have been stronger.