Tag: the new yorker

Short story: “The State of Nature”

“The State of Nature,” by Camille Bordas

Appeared in the New Yorker, April 9th, 2018 (online here) and in the April 3rd episode of The Writer’s Voice

6,787 words

I like the way everyone’s fear of and preparations for the unthinkable—whether that’s societal collapse or rape—come together as a coherent theme. The revelation of the mother’s assault unfolds naturally, reasonably, though I couldn’t have predicted it. Perhaps that’s how all revelations should work in fiction.

Has anyone ever come running to the rescue at the sound of a rape whistle? Or been scared off by one? It does seem illogical.



Short story: “Flying to America”

“Flying to America,” by Donald Barthelme

Apparently many pieces of this story have appeared in various places, but the story as a whole first appeared in the New Yorker, December 4th, 1971 (available to subscribers here), and was collected in a book of the same title

No idea how many words

There’s so much going on in a (typical) Barthelme story, it’s dazzling. Here it’s all held together by the narrator, with his artistic ambitions and his pull towards Perpetua. What do we do with a story like this? Do we long for the filmmaker to realize his vision? “Well, yes.” Do we long for him to get together with Perpetua? Well … not so much, for me, since his attraction to her feels very conventional, much in the same mold as men’s desire for women in “I Bought a Little City” and “The School”—a placeholder, maybe, for all kinds of desire. I don’t know if I understand any of this.

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.

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.