I hit something of a milestone this week: I have just 3 pages left in my short story journal (where I record each day’s story), and so I am moving on to a new blank journal this week, in order to keep complete weeks intact. It’s very satisfying to hold the finished journal in my hand. I think it might the very first time I’ve ever filled every page in a blank journal. Now on to Volume 2.
Besides the unpublished story I had to read and critique for my writing class, this was my reading for the week:
“Indulgence”, by Susan Perabo, in One Story – I love the way the author uses smoking as a way to move us through the story of a woman who learns that her mother has brain cancer. I admire the use of humor to alleviate the bleakness.
“My Mother’s Gifts,” Judith Claire Mitchell, from What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. We read this story in a writing class. It’s short, but completely knocked me out with its precise use of language and imagery.
“Second Skin” by AJ Fitzwater in Crossed Genres (online magazine). I’m making a deliberate effort to read a diverse selection of short fiction, even when it’s somewhat outside of my comfort zone. Crossed Genres magazine has an interesting premise: each month the editors choose a theme and submissions must combine that genre with some elements of science fiction or fantasy. This month’s magazine features the theme “She,” and Second Skin is an examination of what makes a person male or female. It has a steampunk feel, and I enjoyed it.
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates. Wow. I’ve read very little Oates, and only novels, and she is not my favorite author. But this is the story that put her on the map, and deservedly so. Originally published in Epoch, then in Best American Short Stories 1967, it now appears in Oates’ collection titled Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Selected Early Stories. Wow. It’s creepy, filled with tension, and extremely vivid. I discovered later that it was the basis for the 1985 film Smooth Talk starring Laura Dern. I’m tempted to watch, although it appears that the filmmakers do not stay true to Oates’ ending.
“The Chemistry of Objects,” by Amber Sparks, from May We Shed These Human Bodies. I can’t tell you how much I love this collection. The stories are short, each one is different from the next, and they all make me think. You can read this story online, but put the book on your reading list.
“A Telephone Call,” Dorothy Parker. I read this story in Points of View, a collection of stories that focuses on the various narrative structures used in short fiction. This first story is an example of “interior monologue,” which the book points out is tough to sustain for very long. After reading this story, I agree. It’s interesting, but started to wear on me after a bit. Still, the story is quite effective told in this way. You can find the story online (it’s a classic), but you may get a kick out of this performance by Tallulah Bankhead.
I’m off to Booktopia in Bellingham, Washington this week, where I will pepper our authors with questions about short stories and read mostly flash fiction. I’ve got something fun cooked up for next week, though, so stay tuned.