Monthly Archives: June 2007

Alex Mindt, "Reception"

A boy tries to set his dad up with the divorcée across the street.

(from Male of the Species)

But why does he want his dad to date Mrs. Castagna, to marry her? To soften his father up. But also, to ease the burden of his part in his mother’s death. “Reception” works so well at creating its own little world. Despite the fact that this story owes its existence to a Ryan Adams song, it’s a gem, a keeper, a memorable reading experience. It’s not so much the plot, though it’s sort of classic and surprising at the same time, it’s the way it’s told and the details that flesh it out.
I really wish I could find you a link to this one.

Alex Mindt, "Ruby"

Her dad and his dog are running on borrowed time.

(from Male of the Species)

Well, the dog is anyway. But she’s a hopelessly sick and loyal creature. Dad’s a monster. This story was pretty much nauseating from the get go. It was short and I was glad for that.

Jana Martin, "I’m Not Quite Finished Yet"

A sick woman leaves this earthly plane.

(from Russian Lover and Other Stories)

If they try to charge me for this I will protest. “I never asked to come here,” I’ll tell them. And this business about letting go is a crock. Here I am sitting here, luckily I can put my feet up on the chair across from me to help the circulation, and I am thinking, I can’t help it, I am wondering, Who is going to do the bills? I had everything organized. I had all the paperwork in blue files. I had notes everywhere, only blue, and they were coded. I was so proud of coming up with that code myself. But I never told anyone what it all meant. And now what?

This one’s sort of disguised as a what-is-heaven’s-bureaucracy-like riff-fest — what’s the real deal with halos and wings? what happens to our old concerns — but really it’s a thinker. Is the woman dead, or just letting her mind wander in an illness-addled haze? And is heaven what you make it? Is it even heaven, or just another minor hassle? Does your mind wander across your own history, nudging you to judge yourself? This story is so gentle and whimsical, I couldn’t help but read it quickly and with a bit of a smile.
You can read it here.

Bay Anapol, "A Stone House"

Kit knows she will be all alone soon.

(from The O. Henry Prize Stories 2007)

The beach is crowded with other mothers, the kind Kit yearns for: younger mothers in tight bathing suits cutting red marks in their jowly thighs,mothers playing mahjong with bits of damp tile, mothers lighting cigarettes and smoothing chalk cream on peeling noses.

Her mom is sick who left her alone on the beach as a kid(maybe). Her boyfriend’s a passionate but untrustworthy flake. So Kit, whose insecurities often lead to her to imagine the worst and recall her family’s sad history. Seems to me, she’s kind of a Debbie Downer who’s had it better than she realizes. But, whatever, it’s your life, Kit. People deal how they deal. Read a little bit of this small, serpentine, imaginative story here, on this ugly weird page.

Alex Mindt, "Stories of the Hunt"

Dad takes the kid on his first hunting trip.

(from Male of the Species)

Funny thing is, like the boy, I was really slow in catching on to the dad’s ruse. I mean, we both knew something was up, but couldn’t quite put it together. Clever but subtle and with thoughtful, straightforward prose, this story kept me pasted to the page. There’s some solid psychology at work in these characters, if you ask me. The father and son are three-dimensional, likable in that all humans are likable. But not bad in the way that some people are bad.

Jana Martin, "Goodbye John Denver"

Rita is struck by a loopy adrenaline disorder after a car accident.

(from Russian Lover and Other Stories)

Wow, this is a strange one. Basically, this traumatic accident causes Rita to blurt silly non sequiturs, which is sometimes pretty funny and occasionally sad or tiresome. And, though I’m somehow displeased that this popped into my brain, sometimes Rita’s rampant loopiness feels like an excuse for a writer to turn stream-of-consciousness into zingers and giggles. But as soon as John Denver is brought into the picture, the story finds its gravity again. And the pages fly on by.
Couldn’t find a link to pass along, except for this poem by Susan Hooper, also called Goodbye John Denver. (Scroll a bit.)

Helen Simpson, "The Door"

A woman needs a new door after a break-in.

(from In the Driver’s Seat)

Organizing a new back door after the break-in was more complicated than you might imagine.

That’s a cool first line. This simple story only rarely strays into details that don’t involve the purchasing or installing the door. Everything else — our narrator’s history, the break-in story — is only hinted at. You get the feeling those things are interesting and complicated, and maybe terrible, but there’s a sort of peace to the proceedings. The simple act of having a new door installed is as soothing and reassuring for the reader as it is for the narrator.