Mar 30

At Books on the Nightstand, we’re dubbing 2013 “The Year of the Short Story.” In celebration, Ann is reading one story a day, for the entire year. We’ll also be highlighting new story collections, lit magazines, and online resources for short fiction. But one of the things I’m most looking forward to is discussing stories with you, here on the blog. Each month, I will choose one story to feature, and I hope that through the comments on the blog, we can explore these stories together. In addition, there is sure to be conversation about the story at the Books on the Nightstand Goodreads group, so come join us over there, too.

The burning question for the week: “What makes one story for teens and another for adults?”

The reason for this question is that I received the new issues of One Story and One Teen Story this week. I recommend subscriptions to both. So far I’ve received two issues of One Teen Story, and I think each story could stand up among “adult” stories just fine. Based on the last two issues, don’t be put off if you don’t like Young Adult fiction.

One Story #176 is “Running Alone” by Halimah Marcus. High school athlete Hunter Porter is a middle-distance runner, the best in the Northeast. His father, who is also the track coach coach, is a mathematician turned teacher. He’s helped to push Hunter to success. When Hunter’s mother is diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, the necessary surgery is scheduled quickly, and inadvertently on the day of Nationals. They decide that Hunter should still run, even though Hunter has to take the trip to California alone and run without his biggest supporter. My favorite line from this story: “She cannot predict her own son’s regrets any more than she can predict her own death, which, for all she knows, lies in wait on the other side of the automatic door.” I think this story would appeal to teens, even though at it also has the point of view of the mother and the father.

The story in this issue of One Teen Story (Vol 1, Issue VII) is “You Never Know” by Francesa Lia Block. This story is told in the second person. We meet “you” at thirteen, when a boy you like insults you. We follow you through your life int he context of two boys and your impossibly beautiful friend Corinne Coquillard. I don’t know what makes this story “teen” and yesterday’s story not. This is set in the 80s, and at the heart is a teen experience. But there is an epiphany, and it happens when the main character is an adult. Maybe there is no difference; I believe there is a separate editor for One Story and One Teen Story. The fact that I received these stories in the mail on the same day and read them back to back is probably driving the question. Also, One Teen Story makes a teachers’ guide available for each of its stories so that they can be used in the classroom. Perhaps that’s the only difference.

Other stories this week:

“The Echo of Neighborly Bones” by Daniel Woodrell in The Outlaw Album. First line: “Once Boshell finally killed his neighbor he couldn’t seem to quit killing him.” Great stuff.

Fishkill” by Justin Lawrence Daugherty from Littlefiction.com. Longer flash fiction from a writer I met briefly at the AWP Conference. The narrator and his girlfriend Sonora are running away (from what, we’re not sure). Sonora is driven by superstition, and sees bad luck everywhere. This is a fast read with much depth and great description. I’d very much like to read more from Daugherty.

The Vision of Peter Damien” by Chris Adrian, from A Better Angel. This was the strangest story of the week. It is set some time in the past: the chidlren’s bedroom windows have just gotten glass; they celebrate Lammas. Peter is the only one in his family who has never been sick. This makes him feel left out, so when one night he has a fever and a vision, he’s proud. His visions continue, in epileptic-like episodes, ultimately spreading to other children in the town. Peter’s visions are of a lady falling from the sky, of two burning towers, and of a silver angel flying into the towers, causing their collapse. At one point his vision brings forth a news announcer from CNN. It’s odd and disturbing but somehow I couldn’t stop reading.

“House Heart” by Ameila Gray, in Tin House Vol 14, Number 2. I said that the Chris Adrian story was the strangest this week, but “House Heart” gave it a run for its money. I didn’t enjoy this story about a couple who buys a young woman and locks her in the venting inside their home, which is an old industrial building. The themes in this story are very similar to George Saunders’ “Semplica Girls Diary” but not as well executed. Here, it just felt creepy.

“A Murky Fate” by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya from There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself. How can you resist a book with that title? This is the first story, in which a woman asks her mother to leave their apartment so that she may bring home a married lover. The introduction to this book was as interesting as the story, and I feel like this book is not just a collection of stories but also a document on life in Russia after the revolution. I’m eager to read more.

Next week I’ll have details of the Short Story Salon that I attended last night, which was a ton of fun and that I can’t wait to do again. Have a great reading week!

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