Monthly Archives: April 2009

Dave Reidy, "Postgame"

A basketball player hangs up the high-tops.

(from Captive Audience)

Sports stories can be a tough sell, but I bought it that Tim was a pro athlete who built a career out of filling holes and playing roles. He’s not a star, but he’s always had luck finding a place to play until now, when he’s gently pushed into retirement and fatherhood by disinterest around the league. This transition turns out to be difficult, and I found myself hoping, like Tim did, that he’d get one more shot at glory. This story pulled me in.

Inés Bortagaray, "At The Table"

A strange dude plays with a little girl at a dinner party.

(from Zoetrope All-Story, Spring 2009)

The tablecloth is white. It covers all four corners of this large wooden table placed at the end of the yard, and is so long it brushes the floor. On top of the tablecloth are plates, serving dishes, spoons, ladles, knives, napkins, forks, bottles, jars, flowers, and bits of bread.

I don’t get what’s going on here. Is the narrator challenged in some way? And how come nobody seems to notice this grown man crawling around? Weird.

Ronaldo Menéndez, "Insular Menu"

As socialism crumbles (maybe), Cubans get creative to deal with the food shortage.

(from Zoetrope All-Story, Spring 2009)

After some inquisitorial sleuthing, chance hit unerringly upon its answer: At school one of the neighborhood girls remarked, completely off topic, that there was nothing to eat at her house, and then her father cooked a chicken leg like this for dinner. With this last comment, she opened her arms as wide as she could. The teacher pressed further, and the proud girl confessed that the chicken’s neck was also like this, and the heart and the wings were like this. And so it was discovered that the zoo director had fattened Pancho and served him on his familial table, as the girl just happened to be the director’s daughter.

What a great and sick little story. Or maybe it’s not a story but a string of vignettes. There’s the part about raising pigs in bathtubs, and crocodiles in backyards, the crazy part about fishing for cats on the roof. Oh, can’t forget the ostrich part. Loved reading this, whatever it was.

Kevin Wilson, "The Shooting Man"

He really want to go see the show where the guy shoots himself in the head every night.

(from Tunneling to the Center of the Earth)

Short and neat. I liked this story. It’s got a Prestige/Illusionist/Twilight Zone grimness to it. It’s mysterious and feels really separate from real reality. I like the murkiness.

Carolina Sanîn, "The Conductor’s Daughter"

A little girl on a train won’t stop bothering a couple on their way to Armero.

(from Zoetrope All-Story, Spring 2009)

This was a fun and silly little story. Was it about anything other than a precocious bored little girl killing time on the train? Yeah, sort of. The real story might have been the young (high? desparate, somehow) couple who kept making weirdly poetic conversation. The conductor’s daughter and the fat man had questions for them, but never got any real info. So neither did we.
This is Zoetrope’s Latin American Issue.

Cólm Toibîn, "The Color of Shadows"

A nephew takes care of the aunt who raised him.

(from the New Yorker, April 13, 2009)

A fine but slow and somber story. No twists, no clever language, no surprises or hooks, unless you count warm moments of humanity. Which I don’t.
Here‘s Colm Toibin’s site. Read the story here.

Jesse Ball, "Plainface"

The kid is sent out to find food for his starving family.

(from The Paris Review, 188)

But who, or what, is the kid? He’s a shapeshifter maybe, sometimes small enough to be carried like a football, other times big enough to be mistaken for a farmhand. Weird thing is, it’s not just his shape — he becomes other people, suddenly looks like specific people and seems to know things the original would know. There’s probably no chance of making sense of the sci-fi elements. As a freaky little adventure tragedy, it’s easy to grasp. Really enjoyed this one.
Jesse Ball was interviewed by Bookslut in February, and he talks about Plainface a little. I wonder if this is the same Jesse Ball.

Pasha Malla, "Long Short Short Long"

A boy teased for his rock star mullet gets his revenge.

(from The Withdrawal Method)

Funny little story. I’ve never learned to give a crap about the Rolling Stones, but I dug the way the author integrated the music. It put you into the head of our troubled protagonist and yet grounded things. But I’m a rock critic sometimes, so I would say that.

Kevin Wilson, "Tunneling to the Center of the Earth"

Three unemployed friends put off the real world by doing a lot of drugs and digging a lot of tunnels.

(from Tunneling to the Center of the Earth)

And if there’s any chance of being happier than that — filthy, cold and almost imperceptible from the ground we slept on — I would like to know how.

Ridiculous. Awesome, but gently, smoothly insane. There was so much left to think about with this story. It could have been ten times as long with all the material this plot has to offer but the author chose to keep things weirdly simplified, not exactly allegorical, but definitely not set in the real world. Am I suggesting this story should have been done differently, maybe exhausted its possibilities? No.
Here’s the author’s blog.

Jessica Francis Kane, "The Inquiry"

Investigating deaths in a bomb shelter in WWII.

(from VQR, Spring 2009)

Everyone in the audience was staring at the screen, but when the Museum Cinema in Bethnal Green went dark, people turned to the shapes in the seats next to them and asked, “What happened? Did you see?”

Some described what they thought they’d seen, some what they imagined. Several boys switched on torches and when the voices began to subside, the cinema manager, standing on stage, said the usual bit about a raid: “If you wish to leave, please do so quietly.”

Cool. Nonlinear sorta mystery. I had a little trouble following it, but I blame myself. Read it here.
I love the VQR.