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Tag: third-person narration

Short story: “Stanville”

“Stanville,” by Rachel Kushner

Appeared in the New Yorker, February 12th, 2018, and in The Writer’s Voice (read and listen)

Several thousand words

You really get a feel for the hopelessness of these women’s lives. The way the main character analyzes that woman who tells the parole board she’s innocent seems very right. I’m a little puzzled by the shifts between first person and third person limited. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author tried two first-person narrators, or two third-, for symmetry’s sake, before discovering that the two points of view required different modes. Maybe the prisoner needs to have her own voice rather than being a distant “she,” while the teacher can’t sustain his own voice because of his lack of self-assurance?

I can’t tell this is a novel excerpt, which is nice.

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Short story: “Waugh”

“Waugh,” by Bryan Washington

Appeared in the New Yorker, October 29th, 2018, and on The Writer’s Voice (read and listen)

Several thousand words

Harsh and sad, and sparely written. Interesting how Emil (?) disappears at the end—it seemed as though he and Poke might be forming a real connection, but in reality Poke is only thinking of Emil’s value to Rod. The point of view stays outside of Poke’s emotional center, perhaps because that’s just the way his character is. Very masculine, that aloofness of point of view.

Short story: “Jimmy’s Roadside Cafe”

“Jimmy’s Roadside Cafe,” by Ramsey Shehadeh

First published in Strange Horizons, June 30th, 2008; appeared in Drabblecast 249, July 12th, 2012, and in one of Drabblecast‘s Director’s Cut Specials, August 16th, 2018

4,348 words

What an excellent story. The slightly distant point of view (Is it omniscient? Seems like we get a tiny glimpse into Patrick’s mind when he blurts out that line about cigarettes) works well, letting us understand Jimmy’s motivations without hammering us over the head. The first sentence is also great, opening with a bombshell and tapering off, deadpan, into the minor details of the cafe’s location.

Short story: “Birthday Boy”

“Birthday Boy,” by Amy Lukavics

Appeared in Unnerving Magazine, issue #6 (it’s the first story in the issue)

Maybe 3,000 words? I’m hopeless at estimating these things

Clever, and the mother’s emotional arc feels believable, at least to me. Of course, the story cheats by withholding information that the point-of-view character knows, but I think it gets away with it.

 

 

Short story: “Monsters”

“Monsters,” by Scott Cheshire

Appeared in Catapult, September 30th, 2015

5762 words

This story ends at exactly the right point.

Short story: “George and Elizabeth”

“George and Elizabeth,” by Ben Marcus

Appeared in Granta 133: What Have We Done (online here, behind a paywall), November 18th, 2015

8273 words

The relentless cynicism (detachment? deflection? cruel superficiality?) of the narration is all worth it for that last line.

Short story: “Anything for Money”

“Anything for Money,” by Karen E. Bender

Appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story Vol. 5, No. 3 in Fall 2001 (read the story online or subscribe); anthologized in Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope: All-Story 2

10,297 words

Easily my favorite story in this anthology.

I feel ungrateful when I talk about stories that I like a lot, because I’m suspicious of what makes me like them so much and I need to discuss them in terms of that suspicion. This story is cartoonish, far from realistic. Its tropes are pretty cliché: extreme game shows, ambition and greed as the handmaidens of emotional isolation, an isolated man moved by his relationship with a child. Regardless, when I bitch about literary fiction without emotional resonance, what I mean is I want more stories like this.

Short story: “Then We’ll Set It Right”

“Then We’ll Set It Right,” by Robert Gorham Davis

Appeared in the New Yorker, August 28th, 1943 (subscribers can read here); read by Lydia Davis, his daughter, in the November 2015 episode of the New Yorker Fiction Podcast; also appeared in 55 Short Stories from the New Yorker

Perhaps 2,000 words?

This story impresses me with how plain and straightforward it is. I suppose being plain, straightforward, and wickedly understated are the traits of a classic New Yorker story. And the general point of view is distant enough that the point of view shifts don’t register as distracting—an omniscient trick that doesn’t seem to be as common today. The title is a bit unsubtle though.

Short story: “You and Me Are Not Friends”

“You and Me Are Not Friends,” by Eric Rubeo

Appeared in (parenthetical): the zine, March 15th, 2016

714 words

A neat piece about regret. Sort of blurs the line between first-person and third-.

Short story: “The Authorized Biography”

“The Authorized Biography,” by Michael G. Ryan

Appeared in episodes 197 and 198 of Cast of Wonders, February 14th and 21st, 2016; text here

7,539 words, taking up two episodes/25 pages

Good, gripping fun. The ending was a bit unresolved for my taste, but that’s forgivable—I have a hard time imagining another ending that would fit the story.

The main character’s marriage strikes me as pretty pathetic until the point when he actually starts communicating with his wife. I don’t know how people can live like that.