Grace, this is my first time reading you, and I think I love you. Your fictional conversation with your father is like a kinder Art Spiegelman talking to a more affectionate version of his father in Maus.
How can I resist a short story with a title like this? But it figures that the titular bookseller isn’t making ends meet through selling books, but rather through…unsavory means!!
This story also contains an excellent screed against beards.
Do you ever read a story about some baddies, but those baddies are so ingenious you find yourself rooting for them? And you think, somewhat morosely, “Ain’t no way these criminals are going to get off scot-free?”
Roald Dahl, at least in his adult stories, is the kind of writer who’ll let the baddies ride off into the sunset, victorious.
A deeply strange story, but I should have guessed as much from the Lorrie Moore-ish title.
“Look here,” he said, “You’re batty!”
“No; I’m just noticing.”
Not for the first time, nor for the last, have I read about the semi-monied pre-war classes and been utterly baffled.
This is my first time reading Elizabeth Bowen, and the details are astonishing! “Tulips lifted gay little cups of light.” And in an empty room next to a debauched party, “an outraged little clock ticked angrily in the darkness.”
Redemption! The introduction to this story reads “It’s an end-of-the-world story about how end-of-the-world stories actually work.” And how they work is thusly:
- Everyone is dead
- You are not
- There is no explanation
- And nothing to do.
This was one my husband’s favorite stories from Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, which, yes, is sometimes the sort of thing my friends and I read. Sorry to say it, Mat, but this story blew. Not only was the writing super-ponderous, but the dialogue read like talking points from an atheist blog. At least the story had an intriguing set-up: what would you do if you returned from a space mission to find that the Rapture happened without you? I’d be like:
…but with a much bigger pile.
In his review of Everything Must Go, David Edelstein refers to a former teacher’s characterization of Chekhov’s stories:
The author began by writing conventional narratives with twist endings and then, over time, lopped off the beginnings and twists, leaving only the suggestive essence—the model for the modern short story.
In this story, Davis has lopped off too much. The remaining essence no longer suggests.
“Boring Friends” by Lydia Davis
With perfect economy, Davis manages to encapsulate all of my (and I’m probably not alone) social anxieties. I feel both comforted and mocked.
I was tricked! This wasn’t a short story at all, but rather an essay about the Israeli occupation of Palestine in 2002. I’m interested in why Khader chose to write an essay over a short story. Adhaf Soueif explains:
The essay is often subtitled a “fragment,” for it is a fragmented literary response to events that Arab writers feel the need to speak to immediately without waiting for the desired transfiguration into fiction or poetry.
Is it too difficult to immediately address a trauma through fiction? I don’t think I remember fiction addressing September 11th until at least a year had passed.
Can a siege be boring?
(from Words Without Borders: The World Through The Eyes of Writers)
I don’t really want to talk about this story, which is told in the second person at first successfully and then increasingly less successfully as the story gets too particular.
I’m more interested in how Crucet wrote this story. She says, “I made a list of all the people I hated. Then I strung together versions of a few of these people [and] unleashed this narrator on them. A lot of my stories come from a place of anger, which is probably not the healthiest place, but it’s where I tend to start.”
The only short story I ever wrote was for a high school English class in response to Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (still my favorite book). The assignment was to create a grotesque story of our own, based on a teacher at our school. My English teacher was a shrewd, courageous man: high schoolers have a lot of hate and scorn and not many healthy outlets for it.
I hated my history teacher. I wrote a brutal, nasty short story about her desperately soliciting her students’ approval, ending with her crying in our humanities building’s bathroom stall. It was the easiest thing I ever wrote.
Naturally, everyone in our class failed at the assignment, because Anderson doesn’t actually hate anyone in Winesburg. He was able to capture the sadness and hopes of the town’s residents without passing judgment. That kind of objectivity doesn’t come at sixteen.