Monthly Archives: April 2006

Steve Almond, "The Law of Sugar"

Matesh is blabbing on about sugar, but who can pay attention when his nameless sister is so hot and wild dogs are fast approaching?

(from My Life In Heavy Metal)

Matesh’s sister had caught sight of the dogs. She had sunglasses on, but you could see she wasn’t happy about it. She whispered to Matesh, but he waved his cigarette, erasing her with smoke.

This feels like a chapter from some travelogue novel road movie thing, with frantic globetrotting adventures and breathless romance around at every stop. On it’s own? Yeah, it’s cool. It’s a short one, which is about right. Read it here.

George Saunders, "Brad Carrigan, American"

Brad’s trapped on a TV show where TPTB keep changing things in a desperate ratings grab.

(from In Persuasion Nation)

It also seems like the real world and its horrors are creeping in, too. This was funny and nonsensical and fast-paced, and yet it kinda dragged on. Al in all, glad I read it. Here‘s an excerpt.
I’m down and tired and go Flyers. Good night.

M.J. Cohen, "Outside Havana"

Wait, you’re leaving me? But, but, I just started making that corn chowder we bought.

(from The Rambler, Jan./Feb. 2006)

Sometimes a short story works when it’s really just a long joke. The details and and action and everything all lead up to the final moments wherein the punchline is delivered and everything falls into place. That’s the deal with this one, wherein the guy can’t understand why his wife left him. He mulls over the events surrounding her leaving, but all he can come up with are anecdotes about the making of corn chowder, and some things he knows about Hemingway. The guy has nothing much to say about the pre-corn chowder era of his marriage, so you know something’s coming. A punchline.
Here‘s a link to The Rambler.

John Haskell, "Galileo"

A play about the scientist puts playwright Bertolt Brecht and actor Charles Laughton into a similar situation.

(from A Public Space)

This reads like a smart monologue, wherein small-ish plots are told matter-of-factly by an unknown narrator. “Reality” intertwines elegantly with the plot. Cool.

Also cool is this, the first issue of A Public Space, featuring lots of fiction, lots of poetry and a sweet cover photo by Zoe Strauss.

Charles D’Ambrosio "Drummond & Son"

Drummond repairs typewriters, takes care of his mentally challenged son and depresses us.

(from The Dead Fish Museum)

Soft and ambient, with memorable tactile imagery, this story is self-assured in its tone. And a total downer. You’re introduced to a situation you figure is hopeless. Then a brief flicker of hope appears. Then it gets snuffed out bluntly. Back to square one. And, sadly, the whole thing is BYO Diff’rent Strokes References.

Andy Henion, "Behold the Half Man"

He loses half his body in a thresher accident, but it’s his dad who can’t deal.

(from Thieves Jargon)

Crazy. For a short short story, the plot and mood really take some interesting, unexpected turns. Although I have no idea what is meant by this lunatic, humorous, oddly melodramatic tale, I appreciated it every step of the way. Very cool. Read it here.
I’m usually a paper-based reader, or “snob,” but I must say I like Thieves Jargon‘s style. They seek out, “stories about drifters and hustlers and dreamers,” at least according to their manifesto.

George Saunders, "93990"

Test monkeys cannot win.

(from In Persuasion Nation)

Only one animal within this high-dose group, animal 93990, a diminutive 26 kg male, appeared unaffected.

This reads like a lab report of monkeys being injected with a toxic chemical certain to kill them horribly. This was a slightly tweaked version of what I believe was the first George Saunders story I ever came across, back in McSweeney’s #4.
Hilarious and bleak. Read it here, as part of Saunders’ Institutional Monologues.

Done? Feel sort of empty and defeated? Replenish your soul with Regina Spektor’s new one, Begin To Hope. For this occasion, I recommend “On The Radio.”

George Saunders, "Adams"

Something has to be done about the neighbor.

(from In Persuasion Nation)

Okay, I have no idea why the neighbor was in his underwear in our protagonist’s house. But we’re seeing everything through the vaseline lens of a well-meaning-ish unreliable narrator who would never figure such things out anyway. So right on. I can’t really wrap my head around the particulars of this half-scary/half-funny little parable, but it ends as I figured it would. So, peace.
Read it here.

Yes, it has occurred to me to read something other than George Saunders.

George Saunders, "Christmas"

Some roofers have no money and don’t know what to do with it.

(from In Persuasion Nation)

“Are you saying,” said Gary/Terry, “that his gambling, in terms of how much does it suck, sucks exactly as much as does suck his roofing?”

Excellent, heartbreaking little story. But isn’t it not actually a short story at all but an essay about things that actually happened in George Saunders’ actual life? That’s how it was presented in the New Yorker, under the name “Chicago Christmas, 1984.” Anyway, it’s re-written here somewhat (changed names, smoother sentences). Couple that with the verifiable fact that everything written down ever is fiction, at least a little, and we can let this little genre-hopping slide.
Read the New Yorker version here.

Rainer Maria, “A Better Version of Me”

George Saunders, "The Red Bow"

A dog attacked a kid. Shouldn’t something be done about all the dogs?

(from In Persuasion Nation)

Lawrence my God, said Uncle Matt. Do you think I like this? Think of what we’ve been through. Do you think this is fun for me, for us?

As sharp and considerate an allegory for the War on Terror as you’ll find anywhere. You will find it here.

Black Sabbath, “Paranoid”