Monthly Archives: February 2008

Kevin Brockmeier, "A Fable Ending in The Sound of a Thousand Parakeets"

A mute man turns his house into an aviary for parakeets.

(from The View From The Seventh Layer)

This is about as honest as titles get. The story is a fable, in the yarny ridiculous sense, with the neat ending and the simplified version of a something you could otherwise picture as real. (As in: The man’s loneliness is truthful, but where’s all the bird poop?) And certainly the sound at the end is the one we’re promised, although the parakeets are mimicking non-bird sounds. So maybe the title’s honest, but the birds are not.

Wells Tower, "Door In Your Eye"

A guy moves to a new neighborhood and hooks up with a local hottie eccentric.

(from A Public Space #5)


I Read A Short Story Today officially endorses Wells Tower for president. We agree with him on the issues: strong characters, progressive plot structure, attention to detail, and hope for a world more interesting than the one we have now.
Wells Tower 2008 — Blood Eagles for Everyone!
It’s really strange that I am re-reading this story Feb. 27, 2009, exactly a year after the first time around. How the hell did that happen. It’s really sad that I chose to describe the story the way I did then. It’s just really wrong. How about:
A old man moves in with his daughter and spends his days watching the house of the neighbor he suspects is a prostitute.
Guy? Hottie? What was I talking about? Unless this is another one of those stories Mr. Tower decided to overhaul when it came time to compile for the book.

Sheila Kohler, "The Transitional Object"

A hard-up student comes back to her professor’s office on a mission.

(from The O. Henry Prize Stories 2008)

We don’t know what her mission is at first, and it’s a weird mixed of tantalizing and annoying. And then, when we find out, well, It’s really kinda run of the mill Law & Order type stuff. That’s the big-picture plot though; and it’s the sentence-by-sentence intrigue and desperation that carries the day here.

Steven Millhauser, "A Change in Fashion"

A new trend in the fashion world takes the focus away from the female form. Or draws attention to it by hiding it.

(from The O. Henry Prize Stories 2008)

No main characters. No emotion. Just a really funny and appropriately pointless parable about the whimsical nature of fashion. See, one day the trend moves away from hugging the female form toward something humorously roomy, eventually hiding the person entirely. Is there something extra, something deep going on here? I dunno. Great story though.

Zhu Wen, "I Love Dollars"

Father comes to town which means they should track down the other son and/or get dad laid.

(from I Love Dollars and Other Stories of China)

Okay. It took me days, maybe a week, to finish this one. Not only because 40 pages is a lot, but because the whirlwind pace, the strangeness of the characters’ actions and motivations — it was all too much. This isn’t the China you see on TV — the unbreathable over-industrialization, the oppressive government — Wen paints a seedy, drunken, charming, hooker-filled place of rampant capitalism. More like consumerism. I thought I was going to end up writing that I hated this story, that it was all just too much, trying to hard. But no. I dug it. It was a chore to get through, but only for reasons I won’t stand by. These characters are so unique, so fucked in the head, you kinda gotta love em.

Kate Wilhelm, "O Homo, O Femina, O Tempora"

A scientist believes time is slowing down.

(from The Seventh Omni Book of Science Fiction)

This story was kind of over before I was ready for it, and I’m not sure what I was supposed to get from it. There’s this subtext with the wife dismissing the guy’s supposedly earth-shattering discovery, and the guy has this rival who thinks time is speeding up, and also the guy seems utterly disoriented and… I don’t know. Interesting ifnot satisfying.

Michael Martone, "The War That Never Ends"

He follows the tree-cutters, selling ice cream to the kids who gather to watch.

(from Double-Wide)

Martone is not messing around. Every word is well, chosen, every sentence is tight, every story is short. I’m not sure if I was left wanting more. I know a lot of gaps weren’t filled in, but in the hands of a writer like this, I feel like the story ended as it should.

Michael Martone, "A Short, Short Story Complete on These Two Pages"

Profile of a used-to-be non-romance between two book store employees.

(from Double-Wide)

Beautiful. There’s a certain kind of relationship, a work thing, that isn’t love, but it’s a perfect and temporary kinship, the kind where for 32 hours a week, or so, two people are riding the same wavelength. It’s a hard thing to explain, but this story illustrates it smartly and succinctly (although it’s more like 4 pages). Read it here.

Neil Smith, "Green Fluorescent Protein"

A guy tries to resist his attraction to his best friend.

(from Bang Crunch Stories)

Good stuff. This story doesn’t beat its own quirks to death. I don’t wanna sound like a trailer, but this one’s funny and heartwarming. Four stars. A must read.