Tag: the new yorker

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.


Short story: “Leopard”

“Leopard,” by Wells Tower

Appeared in the New Yorker, November 10th, 2008 (online here); read by David Sedaris for the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, January 2nd, 2018 (online here)

Maybe 4,000 words? Feels rather concise

I wanted this story to keep going. I was startled when it ended where it did.

I take the leopard to be a symbol of the boy’s inner life, his (justified) anger at his stepfather, and the power he wants to wield in the world. It’s scrawny and half-tame, much like a typical eleven-year-old boy.

When a story is in the second person, inevitably, that’s the first thing reviewers pounce on. Why is it in second person, does it place you more fully in the character’s shoes, does it demand too much identification from the reader, et cetera. I don’t usually care if a story is in second person or not. But I did notice that parts of this story were in the imperative mood, and they stuck out slightly. I feel like it works, overall.

Short story: “Cat Person”

“Cat Person,” by Kristen Roupenian

Appeared in the New Yorker‘s December 11th, 2017 issue (online here—apparently they release stuff ahead of the date of the issue)

7,201 words, although it goes by pretty fast and so feels shorter

A sad little story. Doesn’t feel like a typical New Yorker piece (not that there’s such a thing as a typical New Yorker piece anymore).

Edited to add: Wow, this story is getting a lot of attention on Twitter, evidently because it’s so relatable. (I mean #relatable.) It kind of feels more like something that would run in The Hairpin or Catapult than the New Yorker, so I shouldn’t be too surprised.

Short story: “Father’s Last Escape”

“Father’s Last Escape,” by Bruno Schulz, translated from the Polish by Celina Wieniewska

Originally collected in Street of Crocodiles; appeared in the New Yorker (online here), January 2nd, 1978; PDF here; read by Nicole Krauss in the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, February 2012

Probably 2,000 words or even less

I listened to this a long time ago and it never completely left me. It makes me think of a parent slowly giving way to Alzheimer’s or some similar mind-wasting disease, so that the survivors bid him goodbye a little bit at a time, first one memory, then another. (I’m not the first to make this comparison.)

Short story: “The Night of the Curlews”

“The Night of the Curlews,” by Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa

This translation appeared in the New Yorker, April 17th, 1978 (online here), and in Collected Stories (1984)

Perhaps 1000 words?

I’m not sure I really get Gabriel García Márquez. This story is well written but enigmatic to the point where I give up on figuring it out. Maybe it’s an absurd joke.

I like the opening, where the narrator implies that something terrible has happened without saying what it is.

Apparently this story gets echoed or reused in One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Novella: “Sell Out”

“Sell Out,” by Simon Rich

Appeared in the New Yorker under Shouts and Murmurs, January 28th, 2013 (online here)

18,683 words

A delight.

Short story: “A Dream of Men”

“A Dream of Men,” also apparently titled “An Old Virgin,” by Mary Gaitskill

Appeared in the New Yorker, November 23rd, 1998 (subscribers can read here, also online here); collected in Don’t Cry; featured in the New Yorker Fiction Podcast

5059 words

A strange story; the plot takes place in the main character’s seemingly unordered thoughts. Men, women, sexual violence, sexual chivalry, sexual “honor,” sexual vulnerability, the working out of some complicated grief.

Short story: “How Can I Help?”

“How Can I Help?”, by Rivka Galchen

Appeared in the September 19th, 2016 issue of the New Yorker and in The Writer’s Voice

4295 words

I liked this story (the voice especially) but forgot about it surprisingly quickly. Maybe because the narrator’s chilliness didn’t convey the emotional content very vividly.

Here’s something interesting the author says in an interview: “I’m very drawn to characters who use data so as to feel that they are being objective precisely at moments when they subconsciously know that they are failing to be objective.”

Short story: “An Honest Woman”

“An Honest Woman,” by Ottessa Moshfegh

Appeared in the October 24th, 2016 issue of the New Yorker and was read by the author on The Writer’s Voice

6486 words

Jeb’s desire is typical of a certain type of man. Sex and romantic affection seem utterly out of his reach, but he keeps maneuvering, keeps playing his game, as though he hopes to annoy her enough that she notices him, or perhaps make her defensive enough that she’s almost afraid. Meanwhile, the “girl” plays a similar if less twisted game: she doesn’t stay at his house in order to make a human connection, she just wants to be right, to feel smart and contemptuous at his expense. The author says, “She’s just as wily as Jeb is, I think. She wants something from the exchange, too—revenge, empowerment.”

Edited to add: Some odd point of view shifts, slightly distracting. It’s meant to be omniscient, but it feels like we spend a lot of time inside Jeb’s head.

Short story: “Are We Not Men?”

“Are We Not Men?”, by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Appeared in the November 7th, 2016 issue of the New Yorker, read by the author in The Writer’s Voice

7,010 words, which is not enough or possibly too many

I settled into this story with the welcome feeling that I might be listening to Escape Pod or Lightspeed—playful worldbuilding and straightforward, emotionally accessible storytelling. But “Are We Not Men?” ends right when I’m expecting it to get started. The ending is presumably supposed to be a revelation of sorts: in a few small ways, wild nature kicks back against controlled technology. It’s a trite dichotomy, and the story doesn’t develop much tension between the two.