“Monsters,” by Scott Cheshire
Appeared in Catapult, September 30th, 2015
This story ends at exactly the right point.
“Anything for Money,” by Karen E. Bender
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.
“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.
“The Authorized Biography,” by Michael G. Ryan
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.
“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.
“Suicide as a Sort of Present,” by David Foster Wallace
Maybe 1500 words?
This is such a good story.
Of course Wallace’s death complicates (or rather, oversimplifies) the way we read it, and probably makes it horribly cruel to his family. All the same, it’s really good.
I’m pretty sure the suicide/present is the son’s, and I suspect he took others with him.