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. Below are links to all of our posts tagged “Project Short Story”
Before I talk about the stories I read this week, a few items to note:
1. The May Short Story Read-along has been posted. I suspect I may have been a bit too subtle in my post: I want you to read the story and then write one in a similar vein. Yes, that’s correct: I want you to write a short story, in honor of National Short Story month. It’s just for fun, and I think it might give some of you a chance to flex those muscles that haven’t been used since high school. You can post your stories in the comments on the post, or post a link to the story. If you’ve written a story but are too shy to post it, leave a comment telling us what the process was like. I don’t want to have to beg, but I will. Please write a story.
2. I was interviewed by Scott Porch at The Huffington Post about Project Short Story. Check it out! Thanks, Scott!
3. Michael and I had a brief discussion about Short Story Month on the latest BOTNS podcast (episode #229). Michael is reading a story a day for the month of May, and he talks about his plan.
OK, now on to this week’s reading:
For my writing class, I both read and listened to Denis Johnson’s “Emergency.” I had listened to this once before, and it was very helpful to dissect the story in a class setting. I can certainly appreciate that there is brilliance in this story, and I admire it greatly, but it’s not my favorite story. It seems a silly thing, but I can’t seem to get past the fact that my favorite scene, which involves a drive-in, will be almost impossible for my children to comprehend if they read this story in a few years. This was driven home even more strongly when my 11 year-old, poking around in an antique shop, had no idea how one dialed a rotary telephone. A little bit of Googling tells me that this story confounds more than a few – the blog “Reading the Short Story” attempted to answer the question of why “Emergency” is so popular back in 2011.
“Jazz” by Dylan Landis was assigned reading for my writing class, and we used this story as an illustration of the concept of Point of View. Landis’ collection Normal People Don’t Live Like This may be difficult to track down, but it’s on my list of books to seek out. “Jazz” is the first story in the volume, and features a teenage narrator who finds herself in a dangerous situation that she thinks is both exciting and disturbing.
“The History You’ve Been Trying to Write,” was an in-class story that we read and discussed, again in the context of Point of View. The story is very short — just one single sentence — and very powerful. It appears that the story may have originally been published under the title “All This” in the book Microfiction: An Anthology of Fifty Really Short Stories. The story is contained in this interview with author Joanne Avallon at FlashFiction.net. There are some formatting oddities in that post, but don’t let that deter you.
I also read a classmate’s story that we then discussed in class. It’s very difficult to critique a classmate’s story, especially in an open discussion forum. It’s been helpful to my reading, though, to focus on a more critical reading of the stories I choose.
“55 Miles to the Gas Pump” by Annie Proulx is another very short piece. This was recommended by reader Grace, and I loved it, disturbing thought it may be. It even more disturbing to have read this on the day the three kidnapped women were found alive in Cleveland.
“A Taste of Dust” by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, in Best American Short Stories 2005. I’ve been trying to track down old volumes of Best American Short Stories (because I want to own them all!). This is a story about a woman who has dinner at her ex-husband’s home along with his second wife, and is both funny and tense at the same time, just as that dinner must have been.
“Unseasonable March” by Birdie Rose, published at the Press 53 blog. This was a winner of a 53-word flash fiction contest, and was brought to my attention in a posting by Jodi Paloni at 365 Short Stories. Jodi posts one online story each day. I don’t always follow her links, but this one intrigued me. Jodi’s note said that the story “…has conflict, character, place, mystery and tragedy, all in 53 words.” And here is where I struggle with flash fiction. Some of it, I just don’t really get. Unlike “The History You’ve Been Trying to Write,” I didn’t see a story here. It is a lovely scene, and beautifully written. But I’m not sure if it’s a story. I’d love to hear your thoughts … please leave them in the comments below. If you are getting this post via email, you can comment at http://booksonthenightstand.com/2013/05/my-week-in-short-stories-18.html)