Monthly Archives: March 2006

Uchida Hyakken, "Fireworks"

A man meets a lady and follows her to someplace scary.

(from Realm of the Dead)

This is a short, scary little number, that’s probably some kinda allegory or fable but i didn’t get it after two consecutive reads, so it’s more like a mystery to me.

Gus Van Sant, "A Man on a Horse"

Two former lovers meet in the desert under unlikely circumstances.

(from Zoetrope All-Story, Spring 2006)

Awesome idea. Two gay Hollywood actors, once an item, are in cowboy movies being shot in close proximity to each other in the desert, and converge when they shoot their riding-off-into-the-sunset scenes. Most of the story is dialogue. It’s a quick, oddly satirical, satisfyingly poignant read. Sweet. Well played, Van Sant.

Eric Puchner, “Essay #3: Leda and the Swan”

Natalie’s essay on Yeats is really about her own unraveling personal life.

(from The Sun, March 2006)

Mr. Patterson, I know this is supposed to be a paper about literature, and the particular literature named “Leda and the Swan,” but you also said that we could use examples from our own life if we found something of “universal interest.” That’s why I’ve departed on a tangent and am writing this essay about love. I guarantee, universally, if you asked people which they’d prefer — a topic about LOVE or one about PERVERTED SWANS — they’d choose mine in a second.

Once you catch the rhythm of this story it blows you away. Amazing. Heartbreaking, hilarious, screwed up and true. I don’t know what else to say. And. I’m on the plane back from Phoenix and I’m sort of self-conscious that the other passengers in row 17 are reading my screen.
There are two options for reading the story here.

David Means, "The Gulch"

Kids commit a guesome crime, but don’t seem to know why.

(from Harper’s Magazine, April 2006)

Not a fun read by any stretch, but interesting and sad, getting the perspective of the detective who remains haunted by and perplexed. Wasn’t without its flecks of humor, but mostly it’s gri, grim, grim.

Posted from the seating area near Gate B11, at an airport in Las Vegas.

Octavia E. Butler, "Crossover"

She’s falling into old, sad habits.

(from Bloodchild and Other Stories)

This short, dark little headache of a story has an unreliable narrator in the Fight Club sense. A fine read, not mindblowing, but sharp and effective. I was kinda hoping for something sci-fi, given Butler’s esteemed rep in that field. That’s mostly in novels, of course, and her preface opens with this: “The truth is, I hate short story writing.” On top of that, it turns out I picked out her first published work, from way back in 1971. So, yeah, not bad. And I’ll have to pick another story from this book at some point.
Case you didn’t know, Octavia Butler passed away last month.

The Mountain Goats, “Waving At You”

John Leary, "Scenarios for Lee’s Forgiveness"

If Lee would only forgive Audrey, it would return stability to the group.

(from One Story #63)

At the beginning of the party, as the children gather near the gazebo to receive their instructions, the first wave of performers springs like summer moths from the grass—nine harlequin dwarves, four friendly Papuan cannibals, three mace swallowers, two blind mimes, a man in a lion suit and an assortment of faux-savage clowns.

One Fourth of July — can’t remember which or where — just as the first barrage of fireworks exploded in the night sky, I recall a guy announcing, exclaiming, really, “That’s what I’m talking about.” Now, I didn’t know the guy, but chances are he hadn’t really been talking about fireworks, hadn’t just had an earlier point illustrated by the rockets’ red glare. He was simply overcome with spontaneous joy at the spectacle.
I felt the same way during the opening moments of “Scenarios for Lee’s Forgiveness,” as a previously unacknowledged itch was being scratched, and I settled in to the enjoy the show. I’m a sucker for witty examinations of the habits and habitats of the ridiculous rich.
This story takes place in a child’s comically overdone birthday party, complete with a floating calliope, a bear wearing a pink hat and those inexplicably blind mimes. And with the early description, the tone is set for the the fanciful ways in which the fops and foppettes imagine Lee and Audrey may make peace, thus saving them from the dreadful imbalance they currently find themselves in. The children are props, the relationships are props, everything’s a prop about which they simultaneously don’t care and care too much. Of course, the real world, like Lee, lurks on the fringes of the party and neither can be sated with a mere song and dance. Beautiful. That’s what I’m talking about.

Here is an interview with the author regarding this story.

The Decemberists, “The Infanta”

J. Robert Lennon, "Eight Pieces for the Left Hand"

Scenes from a small town.

(from The Best American Short Stories 2005)

Not so much a short story as a collection of eight, and the left hand does not figure into thing smuch. Which is all fine. This was utterly entertaining. Dark and witty, fast paced and smart. I hereby praise this one out the ass.
Read one of the eight pieces on
this mysterious site. Here‘s the author’s web site. Hmm, looks like there are 100 pieces for the left hand now. And there’s an audio symbiote. And there’s going to be a movie!?

Yukiko Hirato, "An Invitation To A Movie"

Did Mr. Endo have an ulterior motive for inviting the young man to the movie?

(from Short Story International, #59)

Funny, tidy and short. John figures Mr. Endo invited him to the movie about a love triangle because he knows the young man is having an affair with his wife. I like how you don’t know for sure whether John’s just being paranoid or what.
The bio says Yukiko Hirato is/was a pseudonym of Hisako Hasegawa, an author born in Japan and, at the time of this story’s publication (1986) living in the U.S.

Lefty’s Deceiver, “Horizon is Faster”

Tao Lin, “Zombies”

Neil’s a mostly apathetic, occasionally angry lump.

(from Kitchen Sink 12)

He was embarrassed about how immature he was. He thought that he should write about this, his embarrassment.
And he tried to.
But the tone was immediately evocative of a boy band music video, one of the ones meant to be sad.

See. I kinda wanted to hate this story and its precious, oddly precocious style. Just about every sentence begins with “He” and few are complicated enough to warrant even a comma. Everything is told matter-of-factly, plain, wide-eyed. Kinda low-concept like that. However, there were little surprises, along the way — flecks of humor (like the pasted in part above), moments of clarity — and so the reading experience was worthwhile.
Here‘s a link to the story.

Amber Dorko Stopper, "The Slender Nerve"

Running into Lonnie, her user friend from back in the day.

(from Philly Fiction)

Funny, warm and sad, “The Slender Nerve” rings true about the way survivors of unbalanced friendships might interact after some time and distance. I know I have some Lonnies — balls of boundless energy and wasted potential — in my past I wouldn’t like to meet in a sequel. I appreciate the linear way the narrator tries to dissect and relate to this person she once gave up on. And she relearns why they don’t hang anymore. And she can’t help but shine a harsh light on herself while counting the ways she can’t stand him. Complicated yet simple. Very nice.
Philly Fiction is the size and shape of a litmag, but appears to simple be a one-off collection. It doesn’t seem to have a web site. Here‘s a link to Amber Dorko Stopper’s site, or the blog part of it. I purchased Philly Fiction at Voices and Visions books in Old City.
Stopper is, of course, a Philly author, one whose name I’ve come across occasionally. (She’s also the former editor of the defunct literary magazine, Night Rally.) Most of “The Slender Nerve” is set in my neighborhood (Washington Ave., Morning Glory, etc.); she knows the area. So what brand of neighborhood association re-branding inspired her to refer to the Italian Market as the Ninth Street Market? I was just surprised to hear anybody bought into that is all.