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Tag: twentieth century

Short story: “Moon-Face”

“Moon-Face: A Story of Mortal Antipathy,” by Jack London

Appeared in the newspaper The Argonaut July 21st in either 1902 or 1906; read as part of PseudoPod 589: Flash On The Borderlands XLII: Misanthropes, April 6th, 2018; also online here

2,253 words

A good creepy yarn. Reminds me of Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart,” where the narrator wants to kill the old man for no reason except that there’s something about his eye.

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Short story: “A Girl Like You”

“A Girl Like You,” by Beth Hahn

Appeared in CRAFT, April 13th, 2018

5,176 words

Though told in fragments, this is pretty easy to follow. The only bits I think I got confused about were the parts about the late Richard—there were one or two sections set before the news of his death. I’m also not completely sure where May’s friend Lily comes in, since most of the story finds May alone, in a precarious position, impoverished, navigating a world of men who could hurt her or help her.

The title, and that great line “What sort of girl am I?”, seems to hint at May’s lack of a solid identity in the world.

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.

Flash fiction story: “Everything Is Green”

“Everything Is Green,” by David Foster Wallace

Appeared in the collection Girl with Curious Hair, published by W. W. Norton & Company, 1989 (though Goodreads for some reason says November 1st, 1988); then in Harper’s (PDF), September 1989; read by George Carr for Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast; also read and discussed by the Austin Writing Workshop in 2015 in the podcast Saturday Show, episode #87

Less than 700 words, I’m told; less than a page in Harper’s

A thoughtful slice of life. Certainly not the kind of thing I usually expect from Wallace, but he’s a versatile writer.

Curious whether they’re arguing over an affair or perhaps (since Mayfly’s name, as pointed out in a comment here, suggests rapid reproduction) a pregnancy. It doesn’t seem to matter. That post I linked to posits that Mayfly’s name means she will be part of Mitch’s life only fleetingly—though I wonder if that name might instead suggest her youthful flightiness, her tendency to indulge in brief flings and fancies. That could be the source of the friction.

At the end, you can feel how Mitch loves her.

Edited to add: I wonder how authentic the voice is. I don’t know any trailer dwellers, but presumably Wallace knew some. In his essay “Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away from It All,” he seemed contemptuous of a certain type of insulated white lower-class people—”trash,” as I think they’re popularly called—who wear T-shirts with unfunny, sometimes misspelled slogans and want a Republican in the White House. Here, though, you can see his compassionate interest in Mitch and hear the music in Mitch’s voice. I wonder if someone as urbane as Wallace putting on this kind of voice—this kind of life—is necessarily being a little patronizing, a little inauthentic.

Edited again to add: I notice the window is “her window” but the sofa lounger is “my sofa lounger.” Intimacy, the way their separate possessions mingle. But more than that, distance, since he’s separating those possessions in his mind; they’re not “our window” and “our sofa lounger.”

Regarding the Austin Writing Workshop discussion: I disagree that the narrator is inarticulate or sounds drugged. It seems to me he’s expressing almost exactly what he means to express (at least to the reader—he fails to get through to Mayfly) and his thinking is reasonably clear. I think these readers are being misled by the rough simplicity of the style, what they call “redneckese.” I also disagree that Mitch idolizes Mayfly; his attitude towards her feels realistic, though loving, and the ending feels bittersweet to me, tinged with the awareness of their incompatibility. I also disagree that the story is too simple.

Mitch shows an admirable, perhaps unusual emotional openness. Not what you would stereotypically expect from a man of his social class, or any man.

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: “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: “The Specialist’s Hat”

“The Specialist’s Hat,” by Kelly Link

Collected in Pretty Monsters (Canongate Books), which won a Locus Award; the story also won the 1999 World Fantasy Award; read beautifully in Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast

Not sure how many words

This story is so strange I wonder if it originated as a dream. Not the identical twins or their preoccupation with death/Death—those strike me as fairly conventional tropes in horror and the literature of the uncanny. But that hat, which doesn’t look like a hat, and which can mimic any sound … that belongs in the realm of dream. The ending is marvelous, with children’s games and poetry ambiguously bleeding into the real world.

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.

Last words

“Don’t go away.”

“I’m not going away.”

“But I’m going away.”

—Kafka and Robert Klopstock, K: A Biography of Kafka, by Ronald Hayman

More good thoughts about singular they

“My use of their is socially motivated and, if you like, politically correct: a deliberate response to the socially and politically significant banning of our genderless pronoun by language legislators enforcing the notion that the male sex is the only one that counts. I consistently break a rule I consider to be not only fake but pernicious. I know what I’m doing and why.”

—Ursula K. Le Guin in Steering the Craft (found here)