Tag: twenty-first century

Short story: “On This Side”

“On This Side,” by Yuko Sakata

First published in The Iowa Review, Volume 45, Issue 1 — Spring 2015, online here; anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2016 and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

8,429 words; 22 pages in BANR

I feel for these two characters. Toru perhaps doesn’t know much about trans people (or does he? He’s almost silent on the subject) but respects Saki’s womanhood. In the end, Saki seems to be done with him, and we’re left to wonder if she’s headed for a downward spiral (back to her ex) or just breaking free from another relationship that’s no good for her.


Reluctant citizens

“During afternoon break the clerk, who is standing by the jury box, is asked by a juror how he can get out of jury service next time. In California, you can be called once every twelve months for jury duty.

“‘I could do maybe one week a year, but there’s no way my employer could handle three weeks, two years in a row,’ the juror says.

“‘Well,’ the clerk tells him, ‘people are picked from the voter rolls.’

“‘Then I’m going to un-register to vote,’ says the woman beside me. ‘I don’t like voting anymore, either.’”

—an essay aptly titled “Reluctant Citizens,” by Kyle Boelte, in ZYZZYVA, anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

This is so sad. Maybe California should give them more time between calls. Where I live it’s only every three years.

Short story: “Algorithmic Problem-Solving in Father-Daughter Relationships”

“Algorithmic Problem-Solving in Father-Daughter Relationships,” by Xuan Juliana Wang

Appeared in Ploughshares, Volume 41, Number 2, Summer 2015, guest-edited by Lauren Groff (on Project MUSE); anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

Several thousand words; 14.5 pages in BANR

I really like the style and premise; you can’t help but enjoy this guy’s approach, his blinkered determination. I was disappointed however that the daughter didn’t reappear in the present day. I wanted the closure of knowing whether she forgave him. At the end, the little flashback to her childhood does provide a solution to his problem—the imaginative empathy he habitually lacks. But does he realize that? And is it too late?

Short story: “Things I Know to Be True”

“Things I Know to Be True,” by Kendra Fortmeyer

Appeared in One Story #209, August 13th, 2015; won a Pushcart Prize; anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

Several thousand words; 17 and 2/3 pages in BANR

A story about stories. Charlie’s case is a painful one, the words he lives in failing and deluding him. Could this be a story about the inadequacy of language generally? Most of the time when Charlie speaks, his words make sense only to him.

I haven’t seen a lot of stories about PTSD in veterans recently. I wonder if it’s considered a cliché (I googled reactions to this story and found someone saying yes, it is). This story certainly makes the trope work, anyway.

The author is represented by Molly Ker Hawn of the Bent Agency (x) and seems to be very eclectic. Speculative fiction and YA.

Short story: “Shadehill”

“Shadehill,” by Mark Hitz

Appeared in Glimmer Train #92, Winter 2015; this and another story won the author the $50,000 Keene Prize for Literature; it was also anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

A few thousand words; 10 and 2/3 pages in BANR

When I first read this I thought the girl had drowned, like her namesake, and that the grandfather’s unforgivable crime was neglect. Then, skimming through it a second time, I suddenly made the connection with the beaver—then the cemetery by the shooting range—then the grandfather’s refusal to wear glasses, and that terrible encounter at the funeral—and also “her poor unmade head” (I had to go back and check to make sure I’d gotten that word right, what a word, “unmade”). I like a story that makes me go back and reread parts of it, like a mystery novel that cleverly disguises its clues. The emotional journey, too—pardon the hackneyed and almost ludicrous expression—is excellent, like rising and falling music. I wouldn’t say I felt the sick horror and disorientation the family goes through, I’m more detached than that, but I feel like I understand the exact texture of their experience.

I find it interesting that before we see Ophelia’s twin go into the water, we learn that she survives. We just don’t know exactly what happens to her, which is suspense enough.

Tagging this “first-person minor narration” because I think the central character is the family as a whole, not the narrator.

I haven’t read anything from Glimmer Train in a long time—I dislike their use of author photos—but obviously they’re a very good magazine. They invited Hitz to write a short essay on craft, in which he said:

“The two things that have sustained me in my writing (which until recently has been mostly a private, even secretive activity) are my evolving obsessions with various works of literature in relationship to my life, and my own subjective discoveries regarding craft. To put it another way, the most important and lasting lessons I’ve learned about writing were not imparted to me, but rather won through the long, circular process of reading closely, putting words to paper (or failing to put words to paper), and doing my best to return everything to life. Many of these personal lessons, which I am constantly revising, would likely sound simplistic, or even absurd, if I tried to explain them here.”

The humblest commentary on craft is, in my opinion, the best. (Edited to add: Turns out he said this and I quoted it way back in 2013.)

Short story: “Sudba 1”

“Sudba 1,” by Anna Kovatcheva

Appeared in The Iowa Review, Vol. 45, issue 2, Fall 2015; anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016; read by the author on YouTube

About eight pages in this anthology

An interesting story, but not the gut-punch I’d like it to be. The last line sums up my reaction: great line, but you can see it coming and, for me at least, there’s no great sense of loss.

Novel excerpt that I think may also be a short story: “The Gentlest Village”

“The Gentlest Village,” by Jesse Ball

Excerpted from the novel A Cure for Suicide in Granta 131: The Map Is Not the Territory, April 23rd, 2015 (online here); anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

4,758 words

I find myself feeling stifled by the examiner—smothered under her rationality, choking on the cloying spoonfuls of reality she feeds the claimant. It’s a little like how I feel about “The Depressed Person”: dealing with this onslaught of logic exhausts my mind.

What makes it the gentlest village? Is the whole village a place for recuperation? And if so, are there other claimants, or is it all for his benefit? Perhaps the novel answers these questions. It does sound like an interesting novel. The peculiar style reminds me of The Unconsoled.

Short story: “The Miracle Years of Little Fork”

“The Miracle Years of Little Fork,” by Rebecca Makkai

Appeared in Ploughshares Summer 2015, guest-edited by Lauren Groff; anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

15 and 2/3 pages in this anthology, several thousand words

A good story about a good man. I like the sadness of the elephant and her poor trainer, of Stella Blunt giving up her child, and the sadness that seems to dog Reverend Hewlett no matter what he does.

Feels typical of Ploughshares, though I’m not sure how a guest-edited magazine can have a typical style.

Short story: “Jelly and Jack”

“Jelly and Jack,” by Dana Spiotti

Excerpted from Spiotti’s novel Innocents and Others (Scribner, March 2016); appeared in the New Yorker, December 14th, 2015 (online here); anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

6,979 words, 17.5 pages in BANR

Jelly is a fascinating character. I can feel the allure of being in a pretend relationship with no pressure to look good or live well or be a success. Being free to invent your life afresh and even, occasionally, to tell a truth. I love the ending. Though I suppose it’s predictable.

I just realized this takes place in 1985. I had picked up on the landline phones but for some reason glossed over the total lack of internet, which is really crucial to the story.

Flash fiction story: “Milestones”

“Milestones,” by Janice Leagra

Appeared here in Spelk, February 5th, 2018

416 words

Oh man. Really good portrait of a fucked-up parent-child relationship. On my first read I was picturing the “you” as a father for some reason, but I think it’s actually a mother. I was slightly distracted at the end wondering how the narrator was speaking from beyond the grave, but whatever.