Tag: the new yorker

Short story: “Medusa”

“Medusa,” by Pat Barker

Published in the New Yorker, April 8th, 2019, and read for The Writer’s Voice (read and listen here)

5,196 words

Curious how different stories of sexual assault affect me in different ways. This one doesn’t make me angry, the way the initial encounter in “The Elevator” does, or sickly frightened, the way “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” did on my first reading. The main character’s traumatized calm infects me with calm too.

The ending really works for me, and the bullying voice in her head is very relatable.


Short story: “The Match”

“The Match,” by Colson Whitehead

Will appear in the New Yorker on April 1st, 2019, and read by the author on The Writer’s Voice (read and listen)

Several thousand words

I didn’t see the climactic twist coming. Maybe I’m dense, but I expected the conventional defiant ending, a moment of unbowed pride. Instead, despair. At least the other black boys got their victory.

Interesting point of view. It spends some time in the heads of two boys, but not much, just enough to show the orders Griff receives. It specifically avoids Griff’s own head. Then at the end it abandons the characters and seems to present us, the readers, with a challenge.

On what setting can do

“A good setting, like a good paragraph or a good sentence, hits the Trifecta—fleshes out the world, illuminates character, embroiders the larger themes. Like George Costanza, on Seinfeld, when he eats a sandwich, has sex, and watches the Yankees at the same time. One time, back when I had a straight job, I went home on my lunch hour and ate two Katz’s hot dogs, took a bubble bath, and watched a Rhoda rerun at the same time. (I lived in an old tenement where the bathtub was in the living room.) That was a great day, let me tell you.”

—Colson Whitehead (x)

Short story: “Colors and Light”

“Colors and Light,” by Sally Rooney

Will appear in the New Yorker March 18th, 2019; read by the author in the March 12th episode of The Writer’s Voice

A few thousand words

Some stories lend themselves well to audio format and some don’t. This one does. I was gripped all the way through by this (I suppose) rather banal story of almost-romance. We know almost exactly how the main character feels about this woman even though we get nothing but his unemotional thoughts—which strikes me as characteristically masculine. At the end, I love that I can’t tell which man Pauline is trying to make jealous. I like to think it’s our hero.

I don’t get the title at all. Something to do with Pauline’s screenwriting?

Short story: “What Is Remembered”

“What Is Remembered,” by Alice Munro

Appeared in the New Yorker, February 19th, 2001 (online); collected in Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (McClelland & Stewart, 2001)

24 and 2/3 pages

Rereading this many years later, I found I remembered it pretty well. Now it reminds me of “The Surrogate,” the way the fantasy of the old affair lingers in a way that seems curiously irrelevant to the main character’s everyday life. Is this a common thing with women? (Perhaps men as well?)

Munro frequently returns to the scene of a seemingly spontaneous, mutual, outdoor kiss between a man and a woman who’ve just met. “Passion” has a somewhat similar gesture performed in an open convertible.

When a story rebels

“[While writing the short story ‘Sea Oak,’] I realized that if you’re writing a good story, it rebels a little bit, and it rebels mostly against your early and too-simplistic version of it. There’s that Einstein thing I always quote, ‘No worthy problem was ever solved on the plane of its original conception.’ The story just locked up until I was willing to stop dictating to it and start listening to it.”

—George Saunders (x, x)

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: “The Confession”

“The Confession,” by Leïla Slimani

Appeared in French in Le Magazine Littéraire; appeared in English, translated by Sam Taylor, in the New Yorker, February 18th & 25th, 2019 (read/listen)

2,683 words (I guessed around 2,000)

Interesting, but not very emotionally affecting—interesting in its banality. The horse dream reminded me so much of Crime and Punishment that I thought it must surely be an allusion, but the interview Slimani gives with Deborah Treisman doesn’t touch on that. I like Slimani’s comment that writing about bad things happening makes her less afraid.

The opening reminded me of nothing so much as an Animorphs book. Perhaps overly dramatic.

What is the role of such a story in our understanding of sexual assault? I didn’t feel I learned anything new from it—the banality of rape is not a new idea to me—but I’m certain others will.

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.