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Tag: the new yorker fiction podcast

Short story: “I Live on Your Visits”

“I Live on Your Visits,” by Dorothy Parker

Appeared in the New Yorker, January 7th, 1955 (scanned here for subscribers); collected and probably anthologized all over; read for the June 2019 episode of the New Yorker Fiction Podcast by Andrew Sean Greer

A few thousand words

One of those marvelously funny-mean stories Parker is so good at. Do people still write stuff like this? I wish they did. The mother’s compulsive need to dramatize and martyrize herself is so funny (though not in a laugh-out-loud way, as Greer points out on the podcast) and, underneath that, sort of sympathetic. I think she wants to be a victim, and to dominate her son, much more than she wants him to stay or to love her. And perhaps she really does live on his visits.

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Short story: “The Metal Bowl”

“The Metal Bowl,” by Miranda July

Appeared in the New Yorker, September 4th, 2017 (online here), and read by the author on The Writer’s Voice; read by Emma Cline for the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, May 2019

4,879 words

Every part of this story is packed with insight and character. I listened to it a second time to try to learn from it. The idiosyncrasies of the main character, her peculiar way of looking at the world, seem to be key.

Based on this and the other story of July’s I’ve listened to, she’s a great writer of female neurosis.

The commenters at The Mookse and the Gripes seem distracted by the story’s “shock value,” although nobody mentions the chair-throwing boyfriend, so I suppose by “shock value” they mean sex.

Short story: “Love”

“Love,” by William Maxwell

Appeared in the New Yorker, November 14th, 1983 (online for subscribers); collected in All the Days and Nights: The Collected Stories (Vintage, 1995); read by Tony Earley for the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, January 2nd, 2013; found in a PDF here and buried in another PDF here

1,298 words (I guessed 1,500)

This seems so simple and yet it captures so much.

What a title! I don’t like one-word titles very much, or abstractions, but titling your story “Love” is certainly audacious. Even more so than “Passion,” perhaps. Tony Earley calls the title “sneakily cruel.”

Short story: “Shakespeare’s Memory”

“Shakespeare’s Memory” (“La memoria de Shakespeare”), by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Andrew Hurley

Original first published in a collection of the same name in 1983; Hurley’s translation appeared in the New Yorker on April 13th, 1998 (subscribers can read here); read by Hisham Matar in the December 2012 New Yorker Fiction Podcast (listen here); also in Collected Stories (Hurley again, Penguin)

? words

This story is kind of nuts. I feel like it’s about the weirdness of academic types more than anything else. I mean it’s also a fantastic examination of how memory works, how it affects personal identity, how it holds fast to seemingly trivial details and fumbles seemingly significant ones.

Short story: “Miracle Polish”

“Miracle Polish,” by Steven Millhauser

Appeared in the New Yorker, November 14th, 2011 (read here), and read by Stuart Dybek for the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, November 1st, 2018 (listen here); also anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2012 (Heidi Pitlor and Tom Perrotta)

6,482 words

I listened to this story in two parts and in between the parts I forgot that it was in first person. The narrator’s life seems almost too depressing for first person. Millhauser captures a sense of muted despair, a despair too muted, too drenched in mediocrity and banality, even to be satisfyingly painful. At the end, I wonder if his terrible choice even matters; he’s already irrevocably addicted to what the mirrors show him, and things would have ended just as wretchedly if he had deliberately chosen Miracle Polish over Monica.

That repeated “Are you?” is so awful. You just want it to stop! A good scene, though I suppose you can see where it’s going after a certain point.

I was surprised when I saw the story on the page to notice all the commas and comma splices in the first two sentences. I wonder why Millhauser made that choice? Maybe to show the narrator’s impatience?

Short story: “New York Girl”

“New York Girl,” by John Updike

Appeared in the New Yorker, April 1st, 1996 (subscribers can read here, I think); read by Tessa Hadley on the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, September 3rd, 2018 (listen here)

Several thousand words, I imagine

I haven’t read much Updike. I rather like this, especially the last few lines, where—as Hadley and Treisman point out—the dream the protagonist cherished, represented by this sometime lover, is gently obliterated. Though I personally never got a strong sense of what that dream was—too subtle for me maybe.

Short story: “Jack’s Garden”

“Jack’s Garden,” by V. S. Naipaul

Appeared in the New Yorker October 6th, 1986 (online to subscribers here); read by Karl Ove Knausgaard for the New Yorker Fiction Podcast episode released June 1st, 2016

A lot of words

I was barely able to follow this story on the podcast. I have to agree with Knausgaard that it’s “boring,” but unfortunately I didn’t recognize the redeeming quality he sees in it. At the end it did feel like there was a small, meaningful revelation—too late to capture my attention.

Short story: “Stone Mattress”

“Stone Mattress,” by Margaret Atwood

Appeared in the New Yorker, December 19th, 2011, online here; collected in Stone Mattress: Nine Wicked Tales (Nan A. Talese, an imprint of Knopf Doubleday, 2014); read by A. M. Homes for the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, June 1st, 2018, online here

7,156 words, though it feels much shorter

(Spoilers.) Verna is charmingly believable. It seems like such a leap from her quiet, almost passive-aggressive husband murders (and not all of them even qualify as murders, I feel like) to the swift brutal one she enacts on Bob—I wasn’t sure if she could go through with it. But then she did. And I liked it.

What to make of the ending? I think she’s going to get away with it, but it’s striking how apathetic she is about the whole plan, how distractable. “She ought to care more about that—she ought to find it an exciting challenge—but right now she just feels tired and somewhat empty.

“Though at peace, though safe.” Is she lying to herself about feeling at peace? Surely she is. Surely her revenge hasn’t solved the problem of her life, her bitterness about the long-lasting effects of her trauma.

Edited to add: “kind, soft, insulating money” is so great. Listening to the podcast, I was waiting for the noun (“love,” perhaps?) and “money” came as a delightful surprise.

Short story: “The Surrogate”

“The Surrogate,” by Tessa Hadley

Appeared in the New Yorker (online here), September 15th, 2003; read by Curtis Sittenfeld on the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, September 1st, 2017 (online here)

4,607 words

(Spoilers.) A really interesting, if sad, story. The main character’s fantasy is always something out of reach. I’m tagging this “failures of human connection” because Dave, who goes unnamed for such a long time, remains such a mystery; all we can sense about him, wistfully, is that he would have liked to have a real girlfriend instead of just a sex partner. It’s impossible to know whether the main character’s missed opportunity with Dave is a tragedy or just a wrinkle in her life, something to fantasize about now that they’ve gone on their very different paths.

Short story: “A Visit”

“A Visit,” by Steven Millhauser

Appeared in the New Yorker, August 25th, 1997 (online for subscribers); collected in The Knife-Thrower (1998); read by Richard Powers for the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, January 3rd, 2017

Maybe 4,000 words? Not long

This story feels sad to me—the failure of the narrator to make a meaningful connection with his old friend and his friend’s new wife. It occurs to me that this story could be a parable for a prejudiced person’s reaction to an interracial marriage, or a same-sex marriage, or perhaps a marriage to a transgender person or a severely handicapped person by someone who’s neither: How grotesque this is, how wrong! Yet the narrator does get an intimation of a real and healthy marriage, a thing he’s never achieved himself.