Tag: unnamed major characters

Flash fiction story: “The Exhibit”

“The Exhibit,” by Samantha Kimmey

Appeared in Split Lip Magazine, September 2018

395 words

Great atmosphere. I like how the woman who ends up acting more or less as the main character only appears as an individual halfway through (after 199 words). The real main character seems to be the crowd.

I like the satire here too, the way the visitors assess their own reactions to the art rather than actually responding to it. They don’t recognize it as actual real-life cruelty because the context is so alienating.


Flash fiction story: “The Power Couple”

“The Power Couple,” by Matt Leibel

Appeared in Electric Literature‘s Recommended Reading Commuter, issue no. 51

76 words


Short story: “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby”

“Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby,” by Donald Barthelme

Appeared in the New Yorker, May 26th, 1973 (subscribers can read here); collected in Amateurs (Farrar, 1976), and in Forty Stories (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1987), and in a collection of the same title (Penguin Books, 2011); read online here and here; also read on Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast

1,634 words—I would have guessed much shorter

I enjoy Barthelme’s occasional rambling absurdity. “It didn’t rain, the event was well attended, and we didn’t run out of Scotch, or anything.” That “or anything” is good. The last line, with that mention of gratitude, is wonderful.

Note that all the characters seem to be adults, since one of them “runs a car-and-truck-rental business” and the others seem to drink Scotch and know a lot about event planning. They’re all men.

Satire? I dunno, maybe, maybe not. I notice the characters live in a country where the death penalty has been abolished.

Short story cycle/fictional essay: “Octet”

“Octet,” by David Foster Wallace

First published without the crucial last question in spelunker flophouse; collected with that question in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Little, Brown and Company, 1999)

Several thousand words

I found this piece effective because it forced me to ask myself very seriously whether I found it effective. The first few pop quiz questions are interesting and necessary to the piece, but I’m really talking about the extremely lengthy last one, which begins, “You are, unfortunately, a fiction writer.” It made me actually anxious, I agonized over the question of how I felt, I even felt guilty because I might not be getting what I was supposed to be getting out of this piece that the intratextual writer character (and, I naturally felt, the extratextual author) was obviously pouring his heart into. Of course, it would be easy to dismiss this, as the text itself suggests, as a bit of cheap manipulation. Same with the author and writer character’s artistic choice to make the numbering of the pop quiz questions illogical, listing them presumably as they were listed in an earlier draft that had all eight questions, deliberately showing the reader the seams and lacunae. But I didn’t resent it. I didn’t feel manipulated. I felt moved.

I certainly wouldn’t feel this way about an adult coming up to me and asking, “Do you like me? Please like me.” I would merely have to decide whether to lie or tell the truth, and would think, This person is really odd.

Short story: “Omakase”

“Omakase,” by Weike Wang

Appeared in the New Yorker, June 18th, 2018, and on The Writer’s Voice (read and listen)

Several thousand words

This fucking guy. I love the subtle ways the story shows that he’s a bit of a jerk. He tells the woman (neither are ever named, I’m not sure why) she’s overthinking, and perhaps he means it, and the truth is she’s not, she’s just sensitive to matters of race and to the man’s respect for her.

Even his impressive knowledge of foreign cultures is irritating to me somehow, it’s like he’s using Chinese pottery and sushi and expert chopstick technique to prove how cosmopolitan he is. And it’s subtle enough that it’s hard to put your finger on what’s wrong. I hope the woman realizes all this before it’s too late.

Short story cycle/fictional essay: “Good World”

“Good World,” by John Haskell

Appeared in Blind Spot, issue 23, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004

Ten and two thirds pages in BANR, which probably means it’s in the range of four thousand words

That “powerlessness and optimism” is heavy stuff. How can we change our habits, make ourselves good? The little girl in the well seems to know, or perhaps it’s not knowledge but something else that makes her abruptly choose to act. The woman Anne is trapped in her habits. Laika’s habits make her happy—don’t they?—as well as good.

What is a good world?

Short story: “Teddy Bears and Tea Parties”

“Teddy Bears and Tea Parties,” by S. Boyd Taylor

Appeared in ChiZine #41, July 2009; read in Drabblecast 146, January 14th, 2010, and in a Drabblecast Director’s Cut episode, June 26th, 2018; also published as a Kindle book and available on Scribd

A few thousand words

Eh, I wasn’t a huge fan of this one. Feels like weirdness for weirdness’ sake. Not that it’s not well written; it certainly succeeds in being original as horror.

I got a craving after listening to this, and ended up having a bagel with grape jelly. Delicious.

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.

Short story: “Her Brother and His Sister”

“Her Brother and His Sister,” by Bill Kte’pi

Appeared in The Dark, January 2018, online here

2,278 words

A dark, eerie tale.

Short story: “Big Mother”

“Big Mother,” by Anya Ow

Appeared in Strange Horizons in the January 1st, 2018 issue

4,991 words

(Spoilers.) A neat ghost story/monster story, with a bittersweet ending.

I like this line: “‘Go get Dad’s torch,’ I told Kang, who thankfully didn’t argue. Argument would have broken the fragile inch of my determination.” “[F]ragile inch” is good.