Graham Joyce, "An Ordinary Soldier of the Queen"

A British soldier in the Gulf steps on a landmine.

(from The Pen/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009)

I’m in the turret with the gunner. Phosphorescent flashes keep popping from miles up ahead, and they’re followed by what I want to call a flutter; it’s like your eye goes aquiver for a moment. And there’s a smell in the air, nothing like the usual reek of burning and high-ex. I don’t like it. When it comes to combat I don’t much like anything I haven’t seen or smelled before.

Crazy story. Really seemed like this was going to be a serious, firmly rooted-in-reality kinda story. Horrors of war and such. Turns out it’s kinda serious, but insane. Fun and horrifying. The narrator turns out to be an expertly non-reliable kind of guy. Great story to start off the collection.
This was originally published in The Paris Review. They have an excerpt here.

I’ve never been very successful at maintaining a short-story-a-day pace. And things are about to get a whole lot worse, as I am taking part in Infinite Summer. That’s where you read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest over the summer. A bunch of people are doing it, I gather. The book is huge. I’m enjoying it so far, but I’ve never been very successful at reading whole novels. Had some good experiences lately, though. So. We’ll see.

Right now I’ve got three songs in my head:
1) “Indian Summer” by Beat Happening, the unofficial theme song for the project, I say.
2) “David Foster Wallace” by Tsunami. Brilliant Mistake still rocks my world.
3) “Out on the Wing” by Superchunk. No DFW-ish reason, it’s just stuck in there. Although, hmm, it is about flying, just like the Tsunami song.
So yeah, a bunch of old school indie hits. No apologies. Infinite Jest is from 1997. And it is infinite.

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