Tag: twentieth century

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)


Song: “‘Tain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do”

“‘Tain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do,” written by Porter Grainger and Everett Robbins

Performed by Bessie Smith and Clarence Williams (lyrics, YouTube), Billie Holiday, and many many others

About 3:16–3:24 in length

A troubling song. To what extent is domestic violence anyone else’s business? To what extent is a suicide attempt (“If I should take a notion / To jump into the ocean”) anyone else’s business? The singer’s defiant independence stands in contrast to her seeming self-destructiveness.


Short story: “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”

“A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” by Flannery O’Connor

First published in The Avon Book of Modern Writing (Avon Books, 1953); anthologized in The House of Fiction (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960); collected in A Good Man Is Hard to Find (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1955); anthologized all over the place; online hereread by the author here

6,463 words

I like this story without really knowing what it means. I love the grandmother. She’s so annoying, so unwittingly ridiculous, it’s actually cute.

Wikipedia offers several interpretations of the story. J. Stillwell Powers, on the Ploughshares blog, subscribes to the “moment of grace” one, which I like:

“The grandmother experiences her own dismantling as her family is executed. Her attempts to reason with the Misfit prove futile, and she is forced to confront the failure of her worldview as a means for salvation. Stripped of the perspectives she has clung to, she turns inward for redemption, and, in this moment, sees clearly for the first time. Here lies her moment of grace. Beneath the muzzle of the Misfit’s gun, she suddenly perceives the Misfit’s humanity, recognizing it as her own.”

This seems like the interpretation O’Connor most likely intended. Not to imply that the author’s intention is the last word.

Now Bessie Smith’s great rendition of the song of the same title is stuck in my head.


This makes me feel better

“Being creepy is a part of human nature, and learning to recognize and put boundaries on our own creepiness is something curricular Sex Ed should teach us, but never will.”

—Helena Fitzgerald in this great essay about growing up (found via this)


On giving people their rights

“We gave [Martin Luther King, Jr.] the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we gave him the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we gave him the War on Poverty. What more does he want?”

—President Lyndon Johnson (reportedly) after King criticized the war in Vietnam

This is a dangerous idea and one that’s easy to fall for if you’re inured to the status quo. Rights are not given. They are owed. That’s what makes them rights.

Found here.



“We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.”

—William Sullivan, then the head of the FBI’s domestic intelligence division, about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Crime and mystery fiction publication: Crimewave

Crimewave, an all-fiction magazine printed twice a year by TTA Press, also available in an electronic edition; unfortunately, it appears, as Christopher Fielden suggests, it’s no longer being published—perhaps it’s just been on hiatus
1999 to 2013?
Edited by Andy Cox?
Subscribe here for £36.00 ($49.43 U.S.) per four issues, at least in theory
Apparently didn’t pay writers
Not sure of the typefaces they used
In issue 12, the number of words per line averages 10.6875, and there are 35 lines per page, so per full page, that comes to 374.0625 words

The original editor, Mat Coward, says, “We don’t do cosy, we don’t do hardboiled, we don’t do noir. What we do is something entirely different to anything you’ve ever read before.” That’s not quite true. What Crimewave does—used to do—is literary fiction, or quasi-literary fiction, about crime. And it was pretty impressive.



Short story: “The Conversion of the Jews”

“The Conversion of the Jews,” by Philip Roth

Appeared in The Paris Review (issue 18, Spring 1958), online for subscribers here; collected in Goodbye, Columbus, and Five Short StoriesPDF here

5406 words

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.