Monthly Archives: June 2005

?, "Good Sport"

At his new job giving away coffee at the beach, Allan meets a girl who says she has a stone heart. Like a heart made of stone.

(from The Secret Society of the Demolition Writers)

This story has so many interesting elements, from its insight into the world of coffee promotion to its version of the archetypal Weird Girl, that it’s easy to overlook its uneven tone and too-quirky smugness. Well, it’s smug about how cute it is, cute about how surreal it is, surreal because that way you don’t need things to make sense or come to a conclusion.
Truth is: Those flaws, if that’s what they are, don’t occur to you as you read the story. Best to keep things above the surface of the pool where everything is fun and can be taken at face value. That’s where this story is cool and charming and capable of moving you.

Tonight I went to a reading at Molly’s in the Italian Market, mere blocks from I Read A Short Story Today headquarters. Eli Horowitz said funny things and waved the new copy of The Believer Music Issue in front of us but wouldn’t sell it to us, then passed the mic to to Kevin Moffet and Salvador Placencia who read from their latest books. I enjoyed both. I didn’t purchase their books because they were books, as opposed to collections of short stories. I did buy McSweeney’s issue 16, which features stories by the above Moffet, Miranda Mellis and more, a novella by Ann Beattie and a deck of 13 cards with parts of a story on them that can be shuffled to create a new reading experience each time. And a comb. I also bought The Unforbidden is Compulsory Or. Optimism by Dave Eggers. It’s a novella. Maybe I’ll read that one day. Let’s say the jury is still out on novellas. Optimism.

The Extra Glenns, “Malevolent Seascape Y”

?, "Modern Times"

Marc is starting writing classes with an infamous lit-diva.

(from The Secret Society of Demolition Writers)

From the very beginning — a quaint lil quote attributed to the book’s editor, Marc Parent — you know this is a very self aware story. One way or another, lots of Demolition Writers (and some not included in this collection) get shout-outs, name checks, allusions. Let’s see. Two of the main characters are Marc and Alice (as in Sebold, a point emphasized by the description of her “lovely bones.”) There’s also an Aimee (Bender), a Cheever (Benjamin), a Rosie (O’Donnell, you’ve really made it), a McCracken (Elizabeth). Sometimes authors are just named outright, as in this awkward sentence: “Her hand passed over Anna Quindlen’s Blessings, Sebastian Junger’s Fire, and Claire Marvel by John Burnham Schwartz.”
Oh boy. It’s past pretension and back into comedy. Why not, I say.
The story itself was decent and interesting, although clearly handcffed by its ulterior motives.

?, "The Choking Pearl"

She’s at a party and wants to bite this guy’s cheek.

(from The Secret Society of Demolition Writers)

I don’t want to play favorites here at I Read A Short Story Hear Today, but I’m not against listing my favorites: Alice Munro, Kurt Vonnegut, George Saunders, Hannah Tinti, Wells Tower, used book stores, free books, fun stories, good reading music. Learned to get over my distaste for borrowed books. And of course, as I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of unreliable narrators. They make you feel like you’re in the driver’s seat, a little bit, because your mind has to wander and guess and explore to make sense of everything. But you’re also belted into the passenger seat, because the author is only taking you where she or he wants to.
This story’s got that, probably because our main character, whose desires and wandering thoughts provide most of the clues, is fond of the drink. Key details are unspoken. Unexplainable motives are stated matter-of-factly. You feel bad for her and the people around her. Short. Occasionally pretentious with all those Plath allusions. Cool.

?, "An Eye For An Eye"

Tension in the young couple’s relationship reaches a minature breaking point at a restaurant.

(from The Secret Society of Demolition Writers)

Although I don’t know the author, I felt like most of this story was too familiar to keep me interested. That said, it ends with a neat, memorable moment with the two seeing each other in a simple, new way (literally), and that beautiful moment forgives and forgets everything else. Nice save.