“He splits hairs until there are no longer any hairs to split, and the mental gesture becomes merely the making of agitated passes over a complete and disconcerting baldness.”
—Rebecca West (x)
“The Conversion of the Jews,” by Philip Roth
A charming story of a child suddenly attaining power and not knowing what to do with it. Stories about children can do this really effectively—show the tension between a child’s need for personal power and their helplessness in the adult world.
According to this, The Paris Review got this story from the slush pile. Goodbye, Columbus was Roth’s first book.
“I often use the metaphor of Perseus and the head of Medusa when I speak of science fiction. Instead of looking into the face of truth, you look over your shoulder into the bronze surface of a reflecting shield. Then you reach back with your sword and cut off the head of Medusa. Science fiction pretends to look into the future but it’s really looking at a reflection of what is already in front of us. So you have a ricochet vision, a ricochet that enables you to have fun with it, instead of being self-conscious and superintellectual.”
—Ray Bradbury (x)
“The Tragic Tale of the Baron and His Wife,” by Witold Gombrowicz, translated by Tul’si Bhambry
The same Witold Gombrowicz who wrote “Lawyer Kraykowksi’s Dancer.”
“This is the Story,” by Craig Morgan Teicher
I’m tempted to use this as an outline, though the story it outlines is, I think deliberately, rather trite and literary. The last line hints at the futility of it all.
“At the Zoo,” by Caitlin Horrocks
Appeared in Issue No. 188 of the Paris Review, Spring 2009 and online here; collected in This Is Not Your City (Sarabande Books, July 2011)
This is good.
The story is set up so that we first wonder if the mad scientist is secretly the grandfather, then eventually discover that he doesn’t seem to know anything about it. And then—memory loss? Time travel? He doesn’t seem forgetful. It’s a mystery.
“I think pornography is a very rich medium, and I’ve studied it closely and learned quite a lot as a writer from it. Porn charges and narrows the reader’s attention in a swift, no-nonsense way, and it creates an anxious, intimate, and secretive atmosphere that I find very helpful as a way to erase the context around my characters and foreground their feelings, their psychological depths, their tastes. But I’m also always interested in subverting and counteracting porn’s effect, and the sex in my books is never merely hot. It challenges the objectification that is porn’s stock-in-trade by removing the central conceit that people having sex are in a state of supreme relaxation and self-confidence, wherein their worries and individuality are muted and beside the point. It uses hotness as a kind of decoy.”
—Dennis Cooper (x)