Monthly Archives: July 2008

Naja Marie Aidt, "Blackberries"

Two roommates stop talking to each other.

(from The Literary Review, Spring 2008)

Really, it’s just Helle who’s not talking. She so good at not interacting with our narrator that I started to wonder if Helle was merely a ghost, or a memory. But this is a short short story, and that notion is laid to rest soon enough. Things do take a turn in the final few paragraphs, with the blissful, natural vibe giving way to something unexpected and shocking. Did not see it coming.

Yasutaka Tsutsui, "Rumors About Me"

All of the sudden the press starts following the boring everyday exploits of a regular person.

(From Zoetrope All-Story, Summer 2008)

It should be funny and intriguing and quirky when a regular guy’s attempts to ask out a co-worker turn up on TV and in the papers. But it’s not. It feels tired without immediately conjuring up where we might’ve seen this idea before. (The Monty Python “Michael Ellis” maybe?) And also he’s not a normal guy — his reactions are cartoonish and fake. Ah well.

I haven’t been reading many stories lately because I’ve been devoting my time to Vacation, the debut novel by Deb Olin Unferth. It’s excellent. It’s crazy.

Marissa Perry, "The Invisibles"

A troubled kid starts hanging out with local troublemakers.

(from Zoetrope All-Story, Summer 2008)

“Did you say ‘straightened arrow’?”
“Yes,” my mom says.
“That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Why is that funny?”

“Because there’s no such thing,” my dad says, and smiles.

“What are you talking about?”

“There isn’t any fucking arrow, Tess. There’s just the
straight and narrow.”
“Oh, go to hell.”

I’m not sure how I feel about the “leave ’em wanting more” approach. One the one hand, if you’ve done it right, you’ve impressed your audience enough to keep ’em coming back and to wonder about the unrealized possibilities. On the other: Your audience is not satisfied.
“The Invisibles” is a marvelous bit of storytelling that ends before its time. The characters, particularly our endearing if wayward narrator (who hangs out with jerks and sneaks into houses), make us think about this little world. Everything’s sad and complicated, and confining. And I wanted to spend some more time there, get a glimpse of how things will work out, or not work out. I wanted more. But there is no more. But what there was so good. But I want more still.
Read an excerpt here. Then buy the issue for the rest. Then that’s all there is. Oh I should relax. The story was right on.

Adam Johnson, "Hurricanes Anonymous"

A UPS driver in post-Katrina Louisiana is suddenly put in charge of his son.

(from Tin House, Summer Reading 2008)

Outside the campers are bright purple laundry bins, molded-plastic porch chairs, and the deep black of Weber grills, which is what happens when Wal-Mart is your first responder.

Nonc is an excellent character, complicated and mysterious and identifiable in all the right ways. I guess I’m saying he’s real, or buyable. I bought him. This story’s got soul, and might only work if you’ve got a soul too. You gotta believe in the ending, that the last few pages could happen, for this story to work. Maybe it’s just because I believe in Nonc, but yeah, I bought that too.