Monthly Archives: March 2006

Lynne Sharon Schwartz, "A Taste of Dust"

Sixteen years since the divorce, it’s time to meet his new family.

(from Best American Short Stories 2005)

Years ago Violet would have loved the taste of this moment; now it soured in her mouth.

Tight little psychodrama. Although all the tensions are built into the situation, with few surprises, the unfolding was riveting. Peaceful and devoid of intense action, but real and anxious and captivating.
Couldn’t find the story for you. Here‘s a link to the magazine in which it first appeared, The Ninth Letter.
Also, I’m not sure how long the sale will go on, or if it’s even a sale, but I picked up Best American Short Stories 2005 for like six bucks at Barnes & Noble. Perhaps you could too.

Andrew Foster Altschul, "A New Kind of Gravity"

Charlie’s the newish guard at the women’s shelter.

(from Best New American Voices, 2006)

An excellent story. Uncomfortable in reasonable ways, even when reasonability is hard to come by in its characters or situations. The setting is vividly described, but in such a way that you may believe all details are important. And so they are.
More to the point, of course, is the vibe, the mood, the harsh worldview. Everybody’s got a violent streak or a hidden weakness, or darkness, in them. Nobody’s for-real trustworthy, though you end up feeling bad for the lot of ’em. At times the points are made too bluntly, or there’s too fine a point on the central themes, but hell, it’s your world Mr. Altschul. I’ll buy it. I’ll bite.
My closest literary confidant, who recommended this story (for its awesomeness) and this collection (for reasons more complex), says that the end of “A New Kind of Gravity” turns the ugly mirror back at the reader a bit, recalling this moment from Araby:
“Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.”
Couldn’t find “A New Kind of Gravity” online, but here‘s “Araby.” And here‘s a link to Andrew Foster Altschul’s bio.

Margaret Atwood, "Dancing Girls"

Ann wonders about her mysterious foreign next door neighbor.

(from Short Story International, #64)

For some reason, maybe ’cause it was a busy work week, it took me like six days to read this story. And because it took me so long, I ended up not getting much out of the experience. I mean, I was into the setting and the characters, but the plot and the worldview didn’t hook me. I know full well, Ms. Atwell, that the problem was me, not you. But, is it me, or did the story get weird at the end there, from a sentence-construction standpoint?

I first chose an Atwood story because I thought her autograph machine is so cool. It is, but it’s old news by now. Read this if you don’t know.

Joe Meno, "The Use of Medicine"

Two young kids find their dad’s anesthesiology supplies.

(from Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir)

I guess to someone the experiment might, at this turn, seem unnecessary and cruel. I would bid that someone take hold of a magnifying glass and study the dusky apparatus of his own youth.

So these kids start anesthetizing animals and putting little doll clothes on them and it’s so damn sad and funny and prepoosterous. Awesome. What else can I say?

Bruno Schwebel, "A Gift for Lucrecia"

Giving blood to make some extra cash seemed like a good idea, but are they sneaking extra pints when he’s not looking?

(from Short Story International, #51)

A funny little story, not just in its plot but also its sentence-to-sentence shenanigans. Nice. Couldn’t find a link to this story online, which is a shame because it’s short and entertaining and a fine one to share.
According to the book’s bio, Schwebel escaped Nazi-Austria to write in Mexico.

But oh what providence, what divine intelligence, that this story should contain within it this word(?): “popeyed” — as in “a woman stared at me, popeyed.” Popeyed is a rare and splendid little word that came up about one hour before I chose and read this story in a conversation with my closest literary confidant. She is fish-sitting a sea creature named Popeye, and another one named Smort or something.
Anyway, she informed me that Popeye, the character, the noted sailor man, got his name from a curious ocular condition that caused his eye to protrude, perhaps during periods of excitement or agitation. I was suprised, disbelieving, at this revelation. Big chin, swollen forearms, engorged shins — these are the more pressing physical characteristics of Popeye, if you ask me. But hey, you learn something new every minute.
Curiouser: I ate spinach at the Oregon Diner tonight, a vegetable I had up till today never ordered. I mean how great is broccoli, people?

Monica McIntyre, “Braggin’ Rites”