Monthly Archives: March 2009

Ron Rash, "Burning Bright"

Marcie thinks her husband might be the arsonist.

(from Ecotone vol. 4, 1 &2)

This is one of those stories that, when I’ve finished reading it, I think: Now that is why there should be short stories. It’s an argument I have in my head when I hear people knock on the form, or when I wonder why there seem to be so many short story writers and so few straight-up readers. And my case, in this case, is a strange one. I like “Burning Bright” because of its simple ambiguity. If we ended up knowing for sure whether Carl was the guy setting fires in the woods, what would be have? Bland moral certainty? An episode of Law & Order, with Sam Waterston holding up a receipt for accelerants found in the subject’s dry cleaning? No, it’s better not knowing, feeling the conflict Marcie feels, pondering the situation more than the conclusion.

Bill Cotter, "Pfaff II"

People in mental institutions wanna get out.

(from McSweeney’s, issue 30)

This one’s a heartbreaker. You know that things can’t work out for our heroes, that if things work out for them it might be too Hollywood or unreal, but damn. Really liked this story. It was gentle and true, not particularly surprising but right as rain.

Mary Gaitskill, "Folk Song"

Three unrelated stories sit together on the same page of the newspaper.

(from Don’t Cry)

A rumination on the possible interconnectedness of these three items: A murderer awaits trial. A porn star announces her plan to have sex with 1,000 men in a row. Two giant turtles are stolen from the zoo. Not really a story, like with a plot and all, but interesting.

Kevin Wilson, "No Joke, This Is Going To Be Painful"

Ice fights lead to suburban instability.

(from Tin House, vol. 10, issue 3)

When we finally stopped, the cooler emptied of ice, we were breathing so hard it was like we’d all been fucking for hours.

I really liked this story and… Look, I know it’s this thing some dudes dream about: the crazy, quirky, don’t-give-a-fuck badass chick who’s a little into violence, a lot into sex, who lives for the moment and appalls all the stiffs around her. People try to be that girl and it never works out. People try to date that girl and it only works out for a little while. It doesn’t work out for the strangely-named Wage in this story, the guy who loved throwing pieces of ice as much as the fuck-up sister-to-a-friend who started the ice fight-as-acceptable party activity. So, this girl doesn’t exist, she’s a kind of male fantasy, the “Totally Hot Chick Also Way Psycho” who has no place in the real world. Except she does exist, sometimes just long enough to realize she doesn’t have a place in this world. Sometimes longer, and that’s how it gets really sad. Not because she’s outgrowing the role, but because nobody’s helping her. They’re too busy being apalled or finding the whole idea hot.
Here‘s Kevin Wilson’s site.
You can read the whole thing here, and you should.

Adin Bookbinder, "Meteorology"

She has to take care of her weather-obsessed mentally ill dad.

(from One Story, issue 117)

Liked it, but didn’t quite see the fun in it. Nothing much had changed by the time it was finished, and the dad’s quirks weren’t funny, just sad (not that they were supposed to be funny).

Mary Gaitskill, "College Town, 1980"

Depressed college dropouts sit around hating themselves.

(from Don’t Cry)

These people are so annoying. A story like this should have some jokes in it, so the reader knows the author knows that these people suck. But the story wasn’t funny. It was plodding and lame and I don’t know why I read to the end.

Sheila Heti, "The Giant"

A giant leaves the nest and parties in Paris.

(from The Middle Stories)

One day the giant said to his mother, “I’m thinking of killing myself.”

I’m not sure what the point is, but I enjoyed reading this silly little amoral parable. Well it’s silly, but it’s also got a little depth to it. Fun might be the word. Read it here. Or here.
McSweeney’s just had a sale and I couldn’t resist picking up a few books, like this one, that I’d had my eye on for awhile.

Wells Tower, "Wild America"

Two cousins — one miss perfect, one bitter — who used to be close, hang out.

(from Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned)

I think this is the first Wells Tower story I’ve read with female characters front and center. He’s usually super sharp and insightful when it comes to the testosterone-addled brain of a douchebag, dirtball or blowhard. He doesn’t pull any punches with these girls either. They are transparently mean and petty. It’s a fun, dangerous story that ends with an excellent multi-ball humiliation.

Mary Miller, "Full"

A misanthropic woman her cousins and her twins.

(from Big World)

I’m at my cousin’s house, watching her fix dinner for her twins, who are trying to toss themselves out of their highchairs. When I take care of them, my only goal is to keep them alive but I don’t bother with them now because Courtney’s here and if they crack their heads open it’s all on her.

Another really excellent story from Miller. I love these young jerky women characters. It’s refreshing for fiction. And it’s refreshingly told.
Read it here.