Monthly Archives: January 2007

R.M. Kinder, "Madman’s Moon"

Local kids have a little fun with the town “moron.”

(from A Near-Perfect Gift)

Travis Kratz may have wanted to say a number of things, but the only words we ever heard him speak were “You got a quarter?” and “Want me to do a jig?” He was a moron, a genuine one, a clinical one, and he was ugly, even if innocence should have made him cute.

On one hand, there’s something sort of Hollywood-ish about this: the small town kids taking out their boredom and frustration on anybody who’s different, in this case the “slow” boy who is almost certainly harmless. But on the other, larger hand (picture Hellboy) “Madman’s Moon” feels more democratic, more understanding of all its potential monsters. The local kids, gently repressed at all turns, are reduced to a pack mentality. Only in numbers can they push the boundaries. It’s an idea made plain by the “we” narration. (So you’re never quite clear what gender the narrator is.)
R.M. Kinder’s homepage. (She’s a woman.)

Malena Watrous, "Mummy"

Examining the strained relationship between a single mom and her kid.

(from Story Quarterly #42)

Half an hour before Mimi was due back from school, I got out of bed and fried a grilled cheese sandwich in a pan with lots of butter. I wasn’t hungry at all, but we’d agreed once that the smell of grilled cheese filling a kitchen was the coziest smell in the world.

Mimi’s brief kidnapping is scary, and her mother, our narrator, is understandably changed by it. In fact, she keeps talking about how changed she is. Issues of paranoia and co-dependency are explored matter-of-factly, but we’re so deep in the mother’s head, we can’t help but feel sympathetic. Still. The story is so deliberate and singular in purpose, that it’s tough to feel swept up in it. But there’s a reason you can’t turn off a Lifetime Original Movie without a fight. And the twist at the end is worth the trip.
(I couldn’t find a decent pic of Story Quarterly 42 online, so I took my own.)

Lydia Davis, "They Take Turns Using A Word They Like"

A brief conversation.

(from Samuel Johnson is Indignant)

“It’s extraordinary,” says one woman.
“It is extraordinary,” says the other.

That’s it, that’s the whole thing. When I see stories this short I think about whether they are stories at all and whether they are smug little stunts. This is a story, story enough for me. This is no gimmick, or it’s not one that bothers me. Lydia Davis writes these kinds of things, impossibly short shorts. This book has, I think, 56 stories in 2001 pages. I like this story, even if I, the reader, have to fill in the details, assuming I want them. I can picture these women. The long title gives feels like the sort of thing that pops up on screen before a wiggly-line animated scene, five seconds in a strange place before the screen goes white. Long titles, I say, make a lot of sense for really short works. While the story plays coy with the who-what-where, the title slips us the why up front.

Courtney Eldridge, "Young Professionals"

A budding obsessive compulsive reasons out her affliction and sizes up the competition.

(from McSweeney’s No. 1)

The first page or so braced me for an interesting, if familiar, insight into the mind of an undiagnosed OCD sufferer. Lovingly told in stringy sentences but real Lifetime Original Movie stuff. Anyway it got funny and layers were added and I ended up really digging it. And it ends with a sweet little punchline. Very cool. I recently bought that collection reprinting the first three issues of McSweeney’s. You can also find this story in Courtney Eldridge’s collection Unkempt Stories, which i actually think I have around here somewhere.