Monthly Archives: October 2008

Latanya McQueen, "The Women of My Father"

A daughter remembers the women dad dated after mom.

(from Best of the Web 2008)

“Every woman should act like Audrey Hepburn,” my father says one evening. Home from college, we spend a weekend going through her movies. We watch Love in the Afternoon while eating unsalted popcorn and sipping Crystal Light lemonade from plastic cups. “Look at how beautiful she was, how graceful,” he says to me. “There aren’t many women like this.”

“I bet,” I say, getting up from the couch to get some more to drink.

Short and smart. Dug it enough to read it twice in a row. Read it here.

Amy Hempel, "To Those of You Who Missed Your Connecting Flights out of O’Hare"

A meditation on getting off a plane just before takeoff.

(Contemporary American Short Fiction)
Because if you are like me you know that some of us are not the world, so of us are not the children, some of us will not help to make a brighter day.

A meditation? I dunno. It’s a stream-of-consciousness ramble. I’m not sure why she gets off the plane. Fear, I guess. Interesting. Read it here. It’ll take you three minutes. It’s funny and weird.

Chuck Palahniuk, "Escort"

A guy remembers the brief period in which he worked in a hospice.

(Contemporary American Short Fiction)

These were conversations after we had no emotions left.

I haven’t read much Palahniuk, just some essays, mostly because he mostly writes novels but also because my outsider impression of him is that he is obsessed with the ugliness of life, and I’m not sure how often that mood strikes this reader. (That sentence is pretty ugly, sorry.) But the ugliness in the somber “Escort” is also pretty beautiful. Blunt, yes, but fair. To ugliness.

Elizabeth Crane, "Promise"

An expectant adoptive mom lists the things she will and won’t do when it comes to raising the kid.

(from Best of the Web, 2008)

You will need to let me read a book at some point, or I will completely freak.

Beautiful stuff. Simple. Funny. Smart.
Read it here.
Elizabeth Crane is on the web here.

Ben Fountain, "The Good One Are Already Taken"

Melissa waited months for her army husband to come home, but has a little trouble dealing with his newfound religion when she does.

(from Brief Encounters with Che Guevara)

“We can’t do this tonight,” he told her. One of his arms held her shoulders, sympathetic yet sterile, exuding a brotherly tenderness that scared the daylights out of her.
“Tomorrow’s fine, we can do it all day tomorrow and frankly there’s nothing I’d rather do. But tonight I can’t.” He paused. “I can’t make love on Saturdays.”

I’m really digging this Ben Fountain guy. He knows when to dirty up a sentence with extra phrases. He knows when to drive straight and let the story tell the story. You can read it here.

Russell Banks, "Lobster Night"

A bartender at an upstate New York roadhouse has conflicted feelings about her flirtatious married boss.

(from Contemporary American Short Fiction)

He looked at her. “Lightning! Jesus! Are you kidding me? How the hell did that happen?”

“The way it always happens, I guess. I was doing something else at the time. Going up the stairs to bed, actually, in my parents’ house. It was in a thunderstorm, and I reached for the light switch on the wall and bam! Just like they say, a bolt out of the blue.”

“But it didn’t kill you,” Noonan tenderly observed.

“No. But it sure could’ve. You could say it almost killed me, though.”

“But it didn’t.”

“Right. But it almost killed me. That’s not the same as ‘It didn’t kill me.’ If you know what I mean.”

Possible reasons Stacy did what she did.
1. Having once been struck by lightning, she’s a little messed up in the head.
2. Having once been injured while skiing, and thus ending early her promising future in the sport, she’s a little messed up in the head.
3. Having been conflicted about her boss’s advances, and the weasley way he denied them, she finally snapped.
4. Her empathy for the bear and the lobster inspired her to exact her own cruel brand of justice.
5. She’s just messed up in the head for no reason the author cares to share with us.
6. Other. Read it here and tell me.

Yasutaka Tsutsui, "The Very Edge of Happiness"

People are going nuts.

(from Salmonella Men on Planet Porno)

Expecting the worst, we’d brought blankets with us. The others went to sleep, but I had to drive on through the night. If I thought we’d be stationary for a while, I’d rest my head on the steering wheel and take a nap. Then, when the traffic started moving again, I’d be woken by the driver behind me blowing his horn. With so much congestion, at least there was no fear of causing a major accident. Everyone was falling asleep at the wheel; the worst that could happen was a minor bump from behind.

The first couple pages were annoyingly familiar: OMG society, you make me so angry and disconnected! Then things got awesomely weird. Crazy weird, with people just going nuts for no reason. I don’t wanna spoil it, but there’s a real The Happening vibe at one point. And then the end — it’s just so striking and sick and messed up. How meaningful it all is is up for debate. If nothing else, it’s certainly unforgettable.

Daniel Alarcon, "The Idiot President"

A young actor joins up with a respected traveling troupe.

(from The New Yorker, Oct. 6, 2008)

“You sing beautifully,” I said.

“What was it about?”

“Just old songs.”

“Henry said you were singing about love.”

She had a lovely laugh: clear and unpretentious, like moonlight. “He doesn’t speak Quechua,” Tania said. “Must have been a lucky guess.”

A Google search leads me to believe that this story is set in Puerto Rico, but I enjoyed not knowing specifically where I was. This was a sublime story to sit back and enjoy, watching this hardscrabble little trio tramp across a muddy valley, these actors are like activists, or like folksingers. Veterans from harsher, more serious times, but not satisfied that things are getting a little better.
Read it here.