Tag: twenty-first century

On making unconventional art

“There’s this idea that at some point you master how to tell basic stories, and then you can tell masterful stories. But that’s not true. You never master how to tell a basic story. In fact, you never master any part of writing. Mastering something implies that you can do it again and again, without flaws. […]

“Nathalie Sarraute never wrote a ‘standard’ novel with regular rising tension and beginnings and ends and all of that regular stuff, and I don’t believe there’s any evidence that she was capable of that. I don’t think that a person improves as an artist by producing work that they don’t care about ‘just for practice.’ I believe that you always, from the beginning, have to be aiming at doing something that interests you. And some people just aren’t ever going to be able to interest themselves in the standard forms and models for fiction.”

—Rahul Kanakia (x)


Short story: “Reading”

“Reading,” by David Hayden

Found in Granta 140: State of Mind | The Online Edition, August 29th, 2017

A mere 1795 words

I wish I had something to say about this besides “This is so cool,” but I haven’t had much to say about stories lately. I just read them and like them.

Actually I do have one thing to say, which is that while I was naturally reminded of The Unconsoled, I notice the dialogue is completely different from the dialogue in that book—more genuinely dreamlike, that is, more like the voice of a single person talking to themself.

Novella: “Sell Out”

“Sell Out,” by Simon Rich

Appeared in the New Yorker under Shouts and Murmurs, January 28th, 2013 (online here)

18,683 words

A delight.

As simple as that

“So I made a deal with myself: whenever I thought of an idea for this untitled story, I’d write it down. And if I ever got the point at which the world was built well enough to make it into a story, I’d go for it.”

—Jon Bois on his story “17776” (x)

On the purpose of a first draft

Shitty first draft” is a misnomer

A rough draft isn’t just a shitty story, any more than a painter’s preparatory sketch is just a shitty painting. Like a sketch, a draft is its own kind of thing: not a lesser version of the finished story, but a guide for making the finished story.

Once I started thinking of my rough drafts as preparatory sketches, I stopped fretting over how “bad” they were.

—Wrex (x)

Short story: “For Danny, Twelve Years Old”

“For Danny, Twelve Years Old,” by Lucas Loredo

Appeared in The Masters Review (undated, but appears to be recent)

2104 words

A good story.

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 or rather, novelette: “The Burrow”

“The Burrow” (“Der Bau”), by Franz Kafka

First published posthumously in 1931, with the first English translation coming out in 1933; the Muirs’ translation is online here

15,133 words

Maybe it’s because I was in a bad mood, but earlier today, reading Michael Hofmann’s translation, I felt as though the narrator of “The Burrow” were my only friend.

Short story: “I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness”

“I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness,” by Claire Vaye Watkins

Appeared in Granta 139: Best of Young American Novelists 3, April 25th, 2017

3938 words

I like the sentence structures in this piece.

It appears I’ve read one other story by this author, “Man-O-War,” which I never would have guessed. Watkins is a versatile writer.

I’m disappointed to see that Granta is now using author photos to illustrate some stories online. Even when the author inserts herself into the story, I somehow don’t trust an author photo. I’d rather see something like this or this.

Short story: “The Golden Age”

“The Golden Age,” by Mark Doten

Appeared in n+1, September 16th, 2016 (!)

3990 words

“I really need to thank the generals—can I take a moment to thank the generals? These generals we’ve got, they are amazing, and they’ve said to me, we’re so glad it’s you. In every single branch of the military we have, we have these generals, and what a job they are doing. What an amazing job. And what they’re saying to me is that this is a very small little bomb that’s being used over there, a small nuclear device, and what we’ve got, it’s so much bigger. You run down the line with what’s happening in these places around the world. These are almost all very small little bombs, and even the ones that are a little more serious, even those, ours are much, much bigger, so people can understand that we are in control of the situation, and we are going to have a very, very successful number of days.”

Towards the end, the familiar voice of the president starts to wear down and uncharacteristic eloquence shines through—perhaps because the alternative is ever-increasing incoherence.