Tag: titles

Novelette: “The New Order”

“The New Order,” by Karen E. Bender

Appeared in a collection of the same title; recommended by Molly Antopol in Electric Literature‘s Recommended Reading, October 31st, 2018

27 pages, according to the commentary; 7,716 words

Oh man, this is intense. Like the narrator, I kept waiting for her to say something about it—an apology, an explanation. So much suspense for such a simple story. I read it pretty fast, wanting to know what happened next, and didn’t realize it was so long. I love the way the character ages in a single sentence: “I was forty, then fifty”—and the way her adolescent lie remains terribly, urgently important to her and to the reader. Clearly I should read more Bender. I loved “Anything for Money,” despite my mild criticism of it.

Tagging this “failures of human connection” even though the two characters do make a connection of sorts.

I’m not sure what the title means to be honest.

I noticed a few typos in the Recommended Reading post. Also, the “Jump to story” link is broken, so you have to scroll quickly past the commentary at the top. In my opinion they should put the commentary at the bottom. Not that I don’t enjoy commentary, I just want to read it after the story.


Short story: “Coyotes”

“Coyotes,” by Stephen O’Connor

Appeared in Conjunctions:71, A Cabinet of Curiosity, Fall 2018

A little over 18 pages in the magazine, so 9,522+ words

I like how the monotony of the main character’s sweetness and solicitousness make us understand, though perhaps not consciously at first, that she doesn’t love her boyfriend. I didn’t understand the coyotes as a symbol though, let alone why they’re in the title. I guess they represent the wild freedom and passion she wants for herself (her dream of moving out west) and which she can’t get from Spencer.

Short story: “Experts on Pain”

“Experts on Pain,” by Hanna Halperin Goldstein

Appeared in the Kenyon Review, January/February 2019, listenable and also excerpted in text here

About forty minutes on the podcast, several thousand words

A good story about the isolation of having a painful secret on top of grief. Her attempt to get sympathy from the credit card company employee is so believable. I wonder if the main character would be happier if she didn’t hold her husband’s pride so sacred, if she could tell everyone the truth and rant about it.

What a great title. I’m not totally convinced it’s the right title for this—I feel like the tone is archer, more pointed, than that of the story itself—but it’s a great title.

Short story: “Me and Miss Mandible”

“Me and Miss Mandible,” by Donald Barthelme

First appeared in 1961 in Contact, issue 7 (I can’t find this magazine and presume it’s defunct), under the title “The Darling Duckling at School” (which I think is terrible); collected in Come Back, Dr. Caligari (Little, Brown and Company, 1964) and Sixty Stories (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1981); online here

4,185 words—or close enough

So this was Barthelme’s first published story? Wouldn’t have guessed. Rereading, I want to quote so many lines. This wonderful portrait of prepubescent sexuality, for instance: “Amos Darin has been found drawing a dirty picture in the cloakroom. Sad and inaccurate, it was offered not as a sign of something else but as an act of love in itself. It has excited even those who have not seen it, even those who saw but understood only that it was dirty. The room buzzes with imperfectly comprehended titillation.”

I wonder what we’re to make of Miss Mandible (what a name!) being “ruined but fulfilled”? Was her moment of sexual ecstasy worth her job? Maybe her fulfillment is part of an elaborate fantasy going on here. (Either the narrator or Barthelme is a bit of a pig, after all; he thinks a little girl has “a woman’s disguised aggression and a woman’s peculiar contradictions.”)

But we’re told Miss Mandible “knows now that everything she has been told about life, about America, is true.” Doesn’t that go against the main idea in this story, the way “the authorities” run so much of our lives, the arbitrariness of so much of society and the roles we play in it? “Who decides?” Isn’t Miss Mandible, after all, being punished for the authorities’ edict that a thirty-five-year-old is actually eleven? Or is her punishment itself the thing that confirms in her mind the authorities’ righteousness? How is it that “truth is punishment”? I don’t know. I enjoy the story without being able to puzzle it out.

Glad I googled Sounds of Sebring.

Flash fiction story: “Childhood of a Famous Military Leader”

“Childhood of a Famous Military Leader,” by Jay Gershwin

Published in Every Day Fiction, January 3rd, 2019

688 words

A charming story! But the title bothers me. I feel it says too much, takes away from the last line. I would have preferred a title like “His Early Years.”

Short story: “Like a Ghost I’m Gonna Haunt You”

“Like a Ghost I’m Gonna Haunt You,” by Curtis C. Chen

Appeared in Daily Science Fiction and in Toasted Cake 195, October 2018

979 words


Not crazy about the title, which doesn’t fit the tone. (I didn’t realize it was a song until I googled it just now.)

Short story: “Take a Walk in the Night, My Love”

“Take a Walk in the Night, My Love,” by Damien Angelica Walters

First published in the anthology The Madness of Dr. Caligari (Fedogan and Bremer Publishing LLC), edited by Joseph S. Pulver Sr.; featured in PseudoPod 606, August 10th, 2018

3,983 words

(Spoilers, big ones.) The unfolding mystery was great, though the title should have tipped me off that the husband was behind it somehow—the title and for that matter the first line. I must have been distracted. But then the husband reveal is followed up with an even bigger one. I like the reference to Rebecca, though maybe that’s too much? Not sure.

Short story: “Eva Is Inside Her Cat”

“Eva Is Inside Her Cat,” by Gabriel García Márquez, as translated by J. S. Bernstein

Appeared in the collection Eyes of a Blue Dog in 1972; found in Collected Stories (1984), which was reprinted by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (2008); online here and supposedly here, though I couldn’t get the latter link to open

8 pages (?), 4,280 words (though it feels shorter—my estimate was embarrassingly far off)

I officially don’t understand magic realism. Márquez’s work is beautifully written (at least in translation) and seems psychologically believable, but what’s going on? Perhaps this is not so much a magic realism story as a story that’s deliberately ambiguous about its reality: the protagonist may be dying and becoming a ghost, or she may be experiencing an extreme mental state and hallucinating.

As this commentary on The Reading Life remarks, it’s worth wondering whether a beautiful woman ever really thinks of her beauty this way—whether any beautiful woman has ever written of a similar experience. I feel like fiction by men contains an improbable number of beautiful women who are universally attractive to hetero-attracted men, as though men’s tastes never vary.

At the end it seems (spoilers) that she’s been dead for a long while, death having distorted her sense of time.

I don’t understand the title, since she never seems to get inside the cat. She may already be inside the cat without knowing it, but her experiences don’t seem tinged with catness or with the physicality of the cat.

Short story: “Border Crossing”

“Border Crossing,” by Ann Copeland

Appeared in The FiddleheadNo. 163 (Spring 1990) and No. 185 (Fiddlehead Gold)

Maybe 3,000 words?

I liked this story. The title seems to suggest what disturbs the main character: some kind of trespassing across the borders that divide his life as a father from his life as a man.

I’m curious about how a (presumably) female author approaches the interiority of a male character.

Short story or maybe novelette: “For Jeromé—with Love and Kisses”

“For Jeromé—with Love and Kisses,” by Gordon Lish

Apparently orginally came out in 1983; appeared in The Antioch Review, Vol. 68, No. 3, Annual All Fiction Issue (Summer 2010), pp. 546–588—JSTOR link here

43 pages, no idea how many words

I had a hard time with this story because it just goes on and on. It’s clever, but it’s not clever enough to hold up all the way through. I had no idea Lish could get so verbose, based on his work on Carver.

The title, with its play on “For Esmé,” falls flat for me. Maybe that’s deliberate—the narrator read “For Esmé” and its subtlety was completely lost on him.

Thomas Pynchon was apparently not really born Pinkowitz, but I can see why the joke was too good to give up.