Monthly Archives: November 2005

Mary O’Donoghue, "Motocross"

Growing up with a mentally challenged brother.

(Agni #62)

Heartbreak isn’t something I buy into easily. I see it coming miles down the road. I swerve to avoid it. I steel myself against it. This sharp, sneaky story got through. How? Pretty, sometimes sharp language, mostly. But also the way it draws you into the minds of its characters by showing glimpses of ugly truth. Nobody’s a saint.

Chris Whitley, “Dirt Floor”

Lisa Halliday, “Stump Louie”

A two-bit entertainment scam artist latches onto a pop piano whiz.

(from The Paris Review, Summer 2005)

This story feels sorta classic the way it revels in pre-WWII America, its people, its music, its adolescent views on celebrity. The perspective spilts midway between the talent-finder and the talent, but it’s natural. Luigi is just more interesting, more mysterious than Sternlight, so when he comes along, the story is wise to go where it is. The ending seems like a tiny cop-out, but seriously, where is the story supposed to go after that?

Ellen Gilchrist, “Revenge”

Gender politics among kids in the post-WWII South.

(from Collected Stories)

I picked this story because of its title, expecting intrigue or something like it, and there was some of that, but mostly this was a story about a girl trying to choose her role. She’s sort of a spaz, which doesn’t help her in the fitting in department. The story’s final moment had a touch of dramatic fakeness to it, but ultimately I can’t call shenanigans because the character was so young that makes her motives questionable and her actions forgivable. Plus it was a neat way to end it.

Read this in a Vermont mountain between kubbing matches.

R.M. Kinder, "Ghosts"

Childhood friends vs. the world.

(from A Near Perfect Gift)

…the evening moist and humming with fireflies and crickets…

This is sort of a love story. It’s a kind of love everyone has probaby been involved in, but it’s not so easy to recognize. It requires distance (for the reader, and for the characters). This story is wonderfully brief and truthful.
I am so happy to have found this story online, to share. Read it here. (I found one place where a word is missing, but that shouldn’t hurt the experience too much.)

The Nields, “Gotta Get Over Greta”

Gania Barlow, "Clytemnestra"

Cly deals with feelings of regret, loss, vengeance and anger when Iphigenia is killed.

(from Agni 62)

Not sure why all these people had ancient Greek names — perhaps this story paralelled the Edith Hamilton version of things, or the characters were classically tragic; I don’t know — but this was set in modernish times and surely could have worked if eveyrbody was named Dana and Natalie and Dan and Casey. But, somehow it was neither pretentious nor distractingly pretentious. It worked just fine. All the blood and arguments make for nice counterweight with all the emotional Tilt-A-Whirling. Cool story.

Tim Winton, "Long, Clear View"

You are the new cop’s son in a time of escalating violence.

(from The Turning)

Cool story about a kid growing paranoid and afraid, and with good reason. Unexplainable acts of violence are described in quick, matter-of-fact sentences. Some characters, like the boy, act out of duty, others without seem to do things without reason, or with reason just beyond they boy’s comprehension. It’s hard to say whether things are actually escalating or the boy is simply growing up and noticing.
Some readers cannot stand second person, and I know where they’re coming from, but it didn’t bother me here. In “Long, Clear View,” all the you-use felt like a smart, warm way to describe the main character’s increasing awareness and confusion. Winton’s an Australian author, and his occasional use of terms unfamiliar to me were also welcome and effective. The meanings could be determined by context, and they added to the sense of authenticity, that I was in another place.

Douglas Trevor, "The Thin Tear in the Fabric of Space"

Elena’s got a cosmological theory and very little time left.

(from Black Warrior Review, vol. 32)

There were times when I, as a reader, felt like I was in capable hands, and times when I was less sure, but ultimately I enjoyed this ambitious story. Everything unravelled in a not-neat way that was satisfying and sad. Thoughtful goes a long way with me.

Hasmik Harutyunyan with the Shoghaken Ensemble, “Taroni Heyroor”