Monthly Archives: June 2006

Maja Novak, "The Fall of the House of Pirnat"

Thanking the man who saved their youngest son becomes a slippery slope.

(from Agni 63)

It all began innocently enough. What happened was nothing worse than this: Robbie Pirnat leaned a little too far over the railing of the sixth-floor balcony and fell.

And then this sort of dirty, culturally different guy catches the kid. And the family believes the man is now their obligation, and the man thinks something similar about them, and so a constantly uncomfortable clash is developed around the dinner table. Funny and ridiculous.
Translated by Tom Lozar.
The always interesting Perpetual Folly had something to say about this story. Click here and scroll down.

Andy Henion, "Emergency Room"

My toe’s been cut off, can I get some attention up in here?

(from Year of the Thief)

I inform the clerk through a vent in the glass that a pack of thugs invaded my home, drugged me with an unknown substance, cut off my right pinky toe and left me to bleed out and perish.

There’s a mysterious maybe-twist at the end, but what I really dug about this very short story was the tone set up by that first line. It’s a twisted, gross, funny, sad world our narrator lives in. The miserable waiting room at the E.R. is perfect, right down to the kids who go there to stay warm.
Edited by Matt Digangi, Year of the Thief is a compilation of gems plucked from the Thieves’ Jargon web site, which publishes some daring stuff. This sharp little pocket-sized book is separated into four tarotic sections: The Thief (where Henion’s story resides), The Magician, The Fool and The Hangman. Here‘s where you can buy it if you want.

Tonight, the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup.

The Promise Ring, “Emergency! Emergency!”

Damon Galgut, "The Follower"

What could have been the start of a beautiful friendship turns into a grueling circular death march.

(from The Paris Review, Summer 2005)

He sits on the edge of a rasied stone floor and stares out unseeingly into the hills around him and now he is thinking of things that happened in the past. Looking back at him through time, I remember him remembering, and I am more present in the scene than he was. But memory has its own distances, in part he is me entirely, in part he is a strange I am watching.

That’s how our narrator prepares us for this story’s unflinching shifts between past and present tense, first and third person. Sometimes in mid-sentence. Moments of intensity or confusion sometimes shift away from the “I” to the “me,” the way you might feel out of your own body during some trauma. For our narrator, whom we find out is named Damon, third person is a way to moralize and explain, because actual memory is imperfect and, maybe just a little, irrelevant. With the author openly wielding such a storytelling weapon, we the readers are forced to accept it, even when it’s jarring, even when we can’t tell whether Damon or Reiner is the “he” this time.
And it’s a beautiful story, one with no purpose other than to tell the story of a journey that has no purpose except to see. New places, new relationships, new boundaries. The sentences are sometimes masterfully simple, other times suddenly philosophical. Wise generalizations sprout out of narrative vignettes. Unexplainable human behaviors are rendered sensical. And foreign places become manageable and archetypal, while still hanging onto reality and hostility.
Here‘s a 2003 interview with Damon Galgut. This story came recommended by my closest literary confidant.
MAGIC UPDATE: The wise and helpful Andie Miller tells me “The Follower” is “
the first half of the ‘unpublished’ Free Fall or Flight.” Read Andie’s interview with Damon Galgut. (FYI: It’s a pdf.)

Spencer Drew, "Honeymooning"

A widow walks around museums in her wedding gown.

(from Opium 1)

Uh. It’s not a total goth fantasy camp, but it’s close. All the images of relics and taxidermy on shelves as the expressionless bride mopes around don’t add up to much more than smart imagery, but that’s okay. This reads more like a dream (like, say, Peter Murphy’s dream) than a story. It’s short and single-minded and not a bad read.

Jolie Holland, “Ghostly Girl”

Kim Brooks, "Do You Like It Here"

Wary of men and their cruelty, Claire looks out for her daughter who was disfigured by disease.

(from One Story #65)

“I’ll give ten dollars to whoever can tell me when and why we invaded this country,” Cameron said.

The author knows how to walk the line. Is Claire paranoid? Yes. Is she wrong? Not really. She’s battle-scarred, protective, street smart when it comes to human interaction. Her hyper-sensitivity makes perfect sense to her, and the story does a good job of making it make sense to the reader. One of those stories that make you feel like the whole world is screwed up beyond repair.
Interview with Kim Brooks here. There was another story, by John O’Hara, with the same title. Click here and somebody will read it to you, which might feel weird. It’s from a site called Stories To Go.
I read this story at Twist, with Elton John and then Wolfmother absolutely blaring.

Paul Yoon, "So That They Do Not Hear Us"

Concerning the friendship between the sea woman and the one-armed boy.

(from Small Spiral Notebook, vol. III, issue 1)

Yoon’s vocabulary is casually perfect, subtly sharp. Sometimes writing is so beautiful it distracts from the piece’s overall goals, overtakes the plots, deifies the characters and goings on. I wouldn’t be sureprised if this author is aware of that affliction, because this story wisely sidesteps it, walks along its edge. The complex relationship between the boy and the woman is told warmly and smartly. Makes you feel alright about everything.
Check out Small Spiral Notebook. Check out Cheju Island (Chejudo) where this story is set.

Kimya Dawson, “Caving In”

Amy Havel, "The News"

Iris is married to Ben but she’s started getting together with a weatherman with a strange appetite.

(from Pindeldyboz 6)

Wait, what? Is that really what this story is about? Things are sort of gentle and melodramatic
for a while (the affair, the workplace political intrigue) and then, wow, there’s this crazy reveal and I’m not sure if it’s nonsense, but it’s fun. Nicely done.
Here‘s a link to Pindeldyboz.

Yo La Tengo, “Autumn Sweater”