Monthly Archives: December 2006

I Read A Short Story Today: Year In Review

That about does it for Year Two; I Read A Short Story Today started on December 23, 2004. It’s been a tough twelve months for this site, as a new job — or, rather, an expanded version of the old one — left me struggling to work short stories into my daily life. My attempts to read a short story a day came up quite short. I read 128 total.
Breaking it down:
76 male authors
52 female authors
10 George Saunderses (In Persuasion Nation being the only whole collection I read.)
1 moratorium on Proust (meaning I still have not read any)
1 International Fiction Month (February)
1 novel attempted (I’m still on page 279 of Kavalier & Clay)
1 novel purchased that I was a really bad idea (Gravity’s Rainbow? What was I thinking?)

What changes can we expect for IRASST as it enters its third year? How about this? I’m going to allow comments. Until it gets really depressing or annoying, anyway. Look, they’re active now.

And I’ll try to start putting photos on the site, of the books or magazine I read from. Now, I don’t know how to do this but I know people who know and they will tell me. Ooh, I just figured out the photo thing.

Now, for the first and only time ever, links!
These are sites I like to read, in no order:
Moorish Girl — Laila Lalami. She wrote Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, which I’ve never read, but her blog is quite cool.
Emerging Writers Network — Dan Wickett, the original literary Ewok. I bet I’m the first to call him that. This guy loves to read and his insights are always interesting.
Bookninja. A whole dojo of fun litnerds.
Zero Sum Blog — L.M. A strange and spellbinding site to get lost in.
Jimmy Page’s Sweater Vest — Andrew Beaujon. It’s a music site that’s only a little bit about music. He wrote Body Piercing Saved My Life.
Deadprogrammer’s Cafe — Michael Krakovskiy. Pop culture, pictures, etc.
Maura — Maura Johnston. She writes about everything.
Bloody Knee Jerk — Jesse Delaney. Dude lives metal.
God and a Bottle In Me — J. Edward Keyes. Excellent music writer (and pal).
Under the Rock — “Shaky” Mike Pelusi. Another Excellent music writer (and pal).
Last Plane to Jakarta — John Darnielle. King of the longform rock criticism.
Monoglot — Ryan Godfrey. Quizomaster and IRASST’s tech wizard.
Nervous Unto Thirst — Franklin Bruno. Poet, musician, indie truthsayer.
Comics Curmudgeon — Josh Fruhlinger. Making fun of comic strips.
The Clog. City Paper‘s staff blog. You’ll sometimes find me there.
Edible Complex — Elissa Ludwig. My favorite food critic.
Last Week I Went To Philadelphia But It Was Closed — Dominic Mercier. Kickass photos.
Trapper Juan — Drew Lazor. Pop culture, funny things.
Secret Dead Blog — Duane Swierczynski. My boss, author of The Blonde and The Wheelman.
Crooks and Liars. Outpost of the vast left-wing conspiracy.
Nikki McClure. Kick ass paper cuts.
Brian Dewan. Unlikely musical instruments.
Delta Park Project — Jason and Anna. Super fun podcasts.

Marguerite Duras, "The Bible"

All he wants to do is talk religion.

(from The New Yorker, Dec. 25, 2006)

The first night he talked to her about Islam. The next day he slept with her and he talked to her about the Bible. He asked her whether she’d read it. She told him that she hadn’t. The following day, he brought a Bible with him and he read Ecclesiastes to her in the back room of the Relais.

A short, declarative little story about an obviously doomed and one-sided relationship. The dude just talks religion (not like a true believer, more like a Trekkie) and never asks about her. He ends up boring her, and the reader, with all his blathering. This story is written in that terse, almost allegorical style, all simple sentences and thoughts. It’s a familiar construct that leaves me feeling distant from everything.
Read it here.

Louise Erdrich, "Demolition"

A young gravedigger and an older doctor have an on-off love affair.

(from The New Yorker, Dec. 25, 2006)

Once we got back together, I had to avoid Ted, as well as C.’s receptionist and all of her patients — the whole town in fact. But C. was the shout and I was the echo. I loved her even more than before.

This is a story about a lot of things, and I wonder if one of them has to do with a sense of justice. Indulge me, here — but only if you’ve read it. (Sorry, couldn’t find a link.) Our narrator, otherwise an upstanding guy, lies to his father about his affair and finds himself digging graves for years as a result. He later pursues a law degree. There’s a sweet bit of vengeance (the evil twin to justice) when Ted, whose reverse Midas touch has him creating ugliness all over town, tears down the wall full of bees. And when C. turns up at the end, during the strikingly nostalgic finale, she’s become an old lady. Perhaps she got what she deserved for favoring vanity over love. A kind of love. I dunno. Very cool, thought-provoking story.

Belle and Sebastian, “Dress Up In You”

Pinckney Benedict, “Pig Helmet & The Wall of Life”

A cop with a curious face, nickname and disposition looks for meaning after gunning down a murderous Oxycontin addict.

(from StoryQuarterly, issue 42)

Very cool story, with lots of facts and tangents and a wholly interesting protagonist. Pig Helmet is an awesome dude, comfortable with his messed up face, wise and likeable in a couple ways. The narrator occasionally seems to step out of his own head and into that of his friend, Mr. Helmet, but it’s plausible that he’s simply relating the events as they were told to him. The ending, wherein our loveable monster becomes one with the infinite, or something, you’ll see, is very pretty. Everything ends in a frenzy.
Hey, Pinckney Benedict is on MySpace. You can’t say that about most I Read A Short Story Today authors.

Jon Solomon’s X-mas Spectacular

Hanif Kureishi, "Weddings and Beheadings"

A filmmaker describes his unwanted career video taping beheadings.

(from Zoetrope All-Story)

It’s all hellish, the long drive there with the camera and tripod on your lap, the smell of the sack, the guns, and you wonder if this time you might be the victim. Usually you’re sick, and then you’re in the building, in the room, setting up, and you hear things from other rooms that make you wonder if life on earth is a good idea.

It’s never named outright, but this one-pager is either set in Iraq, or at least meant to recall it strongly. This isn’t so much a story as a vignette wherein the poor filmmaker describes his current predicament and how he feels about it. Things don’t change before the reader’s eyes and that works because how can they? It’s a hopeless situation.
You should read this story here.
Here’s an interview with Hanif Kureishi wherein he says he’s about to make a 10 minute film version of this story.
Here’s the Hanif Kureishi’s homepage.

Rainer Maria, “Catastrophe”

Bruce Jay Friedman, "The Subversive"

Ed Stamm seems like the perfect dude.

(from The Collected Short Fiction of Bruce Jay Friedman)

But he has one little flaw that I’m either reading wrong or doesn’t so much make him a subversive — just a jerk with issues. Not sure why our narrator chooses the word “subversive” but his point is obvious, and laid out in the final paragraph like a punchline: If Ed Stamm can be a jerk then we’re all jerks. Guess so. Regardless of his rather unambitious plotting, Friedman once again proves to be an expert crafter of sentences. Great sentences. Maybe you can read it here.

Rainer Maria, “Terrified”

Bruce Jay Friedman, "Lady of the Lockers"

A hardboiled detective investigates strange, cruel attacks on his associates and lovers.

(from The Collected Short Fiction of Bruce Jay Friedman)

They found her body in locker three hundred fifty-seven at Jack La Lanne’s Gym and Health Spa on East Fifty-fifth Street. Also in lockers three hundred fifty-eight through three hundred sixty-one.

Awesome story. A fast-paced, dry-witted, twisting detective caper, but, I want to say darker or more inventive but I really have no experience with the genre, the hardboiled genre where everything is hardboiled. Hooray from nonstop quips and dark observations and grim gritty murder.
Much thanks to Trey Popp for lending me this book.

Eric Roe, "The Stolen Father"

Their long-lost dad is coming back, but, as with his leaving, the circumstances are suspicious.

(from Redivider, issue 4, number 1)

When my father returned from the edge of the world, hundreds came to greet him. He had been gone twenty-five years. Behan, my sister, had planned a small welcoming dinner at her house. I helped set a table for seven while my nephew, Linus, assailed me with questions: “What’s he like? Does he go to church? What does he do? Why did he go away? Why’s he coming back?” That last was easiest to answer: “Because he was invited,” I said. I glanced at my mother, who sat waiting in a corner chair, but she had turned her head to a murmuring from outside. Behan’s dog started barking, and the cat flattened itself and slunk underneath the couch. Outside, car horns trumpeted and voices whooped with good cheer. My mother stood up, straightened her dress, and flung the door open to a landscape eclipsed by eager faces.

This story ignites little zippos of suspicion in the reader with each little memory its characters conjure. Are we being lied to? Is there some stretch of honesty on this highway of hyperbole? It’s not gonna make you paranoid, but it does keep you reading closely, intently, trying to dicipher the real story behind the father’s mysterious disappearance. By the end you get it, or get it enough. Very cool story.
Read it here.

Yes, it’s been awhile since I last posted.