Nov 24

Today, I’m honored to bring you a Project Short Story guest post from author Jessica Keener. I had the pleasure of working with Jessica on our panel at this year’s Boston Book Festival. Jessica is whip-smart, funny, and interesting, and these characteristics are reflected in her fiction. I devoured her latest short story collection, Women in Bed.

Jessica’s insights into the short story have clarified many of my own thoughts about them: why we love them, why we sometimes find them challenging. But it is Jessica’s guest post on Fairy Tales that gave me my most recent a-ha moment. Fairy Tales are often a reader’s first experience with the form of the short story, and perhaps set the expectation of what a short story should be. I’m still pondering this, and working on a post about it. I hope to share it with you soon.

Today, Jessica shares her personal experience with fairy tales.  I’d like to thank her for taking the time to write this post for us, and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I have. Please share your thoughts about fairy tales and all things short-story in the comments.

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Once upon a time

By Jessica Keener

My love for short stories began in early childhood in the form of Mother Goose rhymes, but took permanent hold in the phantasmal world of fairy tales. By third grade, Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Anderson’s Fairy Tales took top position on my list of favorite things to read. I loved these short stories for their raw, intense emotions.  Simple on one level—a girl walks through woods to see her grandmother—but complex on another: girl fails to perceive danger and is almost tricked by deception. In each tale, some magnetism between good and evil forces swayed the tidal currents of my subconscious.  Why, for instance, couldn’t Red Riding Hood see the wolf under her grandmother’s bonnet right away?  What took her so long to figure things out?  As an adult reader, I reconsidered the symbolism of Red Riding Hood and wondered: what present dangers are disguised behind familiar faces and forms (friends, foes, governments, pesticides)?  What causes us not to see them?

By age eleven or so, I’d read these fairy tales over and over. I felt a compulsion to do this, as if rereading and memorizing the stories and words might saturate me with their wisdom. I wanted to locate secrets about life I intuitively sensed lay embedded in those pages. Why did Goldilocks think she could enter a stranger’s house, eat leftover food and sleep in a stranger’s bed?  Didn’t someone tell her to be careful? What would I do if I were in her position?

“The Ugly Duckling” is a heart wrenching  yet  inspiring tale of a bird that is bullied, rejected, tossed by time and fate; victorious in the end, in part, because the universe decides to save it. On a more complex level, it’s about faith and despair’s intricate dance. One more day in the cold marshes and that little duck would have been a goner. Was it a G-d-like intervention? Was it the duckling’s kindly heart that drew reward after long suffering, hence a morality tale? How do we find our rightly place in the world? The story introduced me to the concept of destiny and belief in self. I wouldn’t have defined it as such when I was eight or eleven, but the elixir of perception and awareness was there in the story, in the words.

Animate and inanimate objects possessed equal power in these tales. Everything and anything had an ability to share knowledge. One of my favorite Anderson fairy tales, “The Fir Tree,” is about a tree yearning to be other than itself.  It longs to be a glittering Christmas tree. The tree finally gets his wish but it’s short-lived.  Soon after becoming a decorated tree, the holiday ends, the fir tree is discarded and chopped into pieces, then “placed in a fire under the kettle.”  Yet, earlier in the story, the fir tree had been forewarned:  “Rejoice with us,” said the air and the sunlight. “Enjoy thine own bright life in the fresh air.”

This story introduced me to the concept of tragedy and loss. On a more complex level, it revealed the way disparaging thoughts can lead to self-annihilation. These are heady things for a child and I could never have expressed them thus back then, but these tales gave me comfort. Despite their dark and frightening turns, they also imparted joy and light. I leaned on them because I felt they cared enough to tell me the truth.

 

Jessica Keener   Women in Bed

Jessica Keener’s collection of short stories, Women In Bed, came out in October and has received early praise from Publisher’s Weekly, which said: “She demonstrates a versatile voice and ability to deliver as much exquisite detail as the stories’ brevity will allow.” Jessica’s debut novel, Night Swim, was published to critical acclaim and became a national bestseller.

Sep 08

Dear short story friends, welcome back! I hope you enjoyed your August vacation from the read-along. But now we’re back, and since it’s back-to-school season, it’s time to resume thinking about the short story–at least in my little corner of the literary world.

While we were “on break,” I took a fascinating writing class at the amazing Grub Street in Boston. I am so very lucky to have a writing center like Grub Street just an hour from home. The class was called “The Structure of Short Fiction,” taught by Ron MacLean, an award winning short story writer and novelist. In the six week class, we looked at just a few of the structures that a writer can use to tell his or her story. This class taught me so much, but most importantly, it taught me why I often struggle with short stories. And I think the class has been key in helping me to figure out why so many readers who love novels find it difficult to embrace the short story. Of course, it’s not an easy thing to explain, so please don’t ask. I’m struggling to get my thoughts into some kind of coherent structure of their own so that someday I may tell you. But let me just say that that question was the impetus for Project Short Story, and I feel I’ve succeeded in finding my answer.

My favorite story from Ron’s class was Etgar Keret’s “What Of This Goldfish Would You Wish?” I had read a few stories by Keret, but this one just grabbed me. I left the class almost dancing, because I felt that I had been handed a gift in the form of this story. (So Ron, if you have a Google alert set up for yourself and see this post, thank you!)

Now I want to share this gift with you. There are a few ways you may experience this story:

Hear it read by Gary Shteyngart

Hear it performed on This American Life by actor Michael Chernus

Read it online

Read the story in Keret’s collection Suddenly, A Knock on the Door

When you’ve read or listened to the story, please post your thoughts in the comments. I hope someone out there loves this story as much as I do.

Aug 16

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Yes, I give up. I’m am very, very behind in my short story reading, and even further behind in blogging the stories that I *have* read. I won’t bore you with excuses, but I will blame some pretty amazing upcoming books for taking up all of my reading time (*cough* Dave Eggers *cough* Donna Tartt *cough*).

So I’m officially declaring Short Story Bankruptcy. I will not try to catch up. Instead, I will begin anew on Monday, August 19th. Back to one story per day. Back to blogging the stories, hopefully weekly.

In the meantime, enjoy your vacation. I won’t be announcing an August short story read-along, so that you all can catch up on prior stories of month (or declare bankruptcy yourself, as you like).

I’ve got a fantastic story read-along planned for September, though, so rest up.

I’ll check in with you soon.

Jul 15

I wish I knew why I always believe I’m going to have more time to read in the summer. It’s not really true. Yes, there are more hours of daylight, but I do have electricity, so that doesn’t really make a difference. Anyway, I’m not behind in reading, just in blogging. I promise! (OK, I’m behind by 2 days in my reading. No excuses.)

But in order to keep Callie (who keeps up the amazing index of stories I’ve read) from going insane, and these posts from being too long, I”m going to blog one week at a time, twice this week and twice next week, and then I should be caught up.

I assigned a “theme” to week #25: “Stories by authors who have new novels.” In many cases I’d read the new novel, and it was interesting to experience these authors through a shorter form..

Fem Care” by Elliott Holt. This story won a Pushcart Prize in 2011. It’s set inside the world of corporate feminine product marketing, and secrets learned while attending a conference.  Holt’s new novel is You Are One of Them, and I talk about it on BOTNS #238.

“Dinner” by Alissa Nutting, from Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls. I adore this story about a woman and five men who are boiling in a kettle of broth, waiting to be eaten. Many of you know that I am slightly obsessed by Nutting’s new novel, Tampa, which has been getting much buzz due to its shocking and controversial content. I will definitely read more from Nutting’s collection; I like the sense of edginess that she brings to her writing. You can watch a video of Nutting reading her story “Dinner.” It starts at about the 04:15 mark.

The Cartographer’s Girl” (pdf link) by Matt Bell, from How They Were Found. A man’s girlfriend disappears while sleepwalking. He’s a cartographer, and draws maps of their city in an attempt to find her. I read this story in its ebook version, and due to formatting limitations, it is missing an important part of the story — the graphical key that the cartographer uses in his map. Thanks to publisher Keyhole Press (an imprint of Dzanc Books) for providing a pdf version online so that I could read the story as intended. Bell’s new novel, In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods is a dark and odd novel that is unlike anything I’ve read before. Bell is an author to keep your eye on — supremely talented, not for everyone, but if you are feeling adventurous, give his novel a try. It’s fantastic, in every sense of the word.

“Serenade” by Daphne Kalotay, from Calamity and Other Stories. A little slice of life circa 1970s, when a piano teacher is invited to a neighborhood cocktail party. This is lovely. The music at the center of the story echoes Kalotay’s new novel, Sight Reading. “Serenade” is not available online, but three other stories from the collection are linked from her website.

“Children of the Sea” by Edwidge Danticat, from Krik? Krak! This story is told in the voices of two young lovers who write each other letters that will never be read. He is on a boat, escaping Haiti and the persecution of political ideas. She is with her family, as they are forced to flee their home. Danticat writes like a dream, and her upcoming Claire of the Sea Light (on-sale August 27th in the US) is one of my favorite books of 2103.

This week I also diverged a little from theme and read two stories from new collections. I think it’s safe to say that you should add both of these collections to your reading lists.

“Bobcat” by Rebecca Lee, from Bobcat and Other Stories. A dinner party in Manhattan, varied lives, marriages, affairs … most importantly, excellent writing. This book is getting a lot of love from readers I trust — some are calling it their favorite collection of the last year or two. I’m looking forward to reading more.

“On Ohaeto Street” by Chinelo Okparanta, from Happiness Like Water. This highly-anticipated collection will be published mid-August, and I’m eager to read more. Okparanta is Nigerian by birth, a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and very talented. “Oh Oheaeto Street” is the story of a marriage brought to its knees by a robbery. Okparanta has a lovely voice, and there is a strong evocation of place. I love discovering new places through stories, and though I’ve read a few novels set in Nigeria, the stories seem to be able to touch on a wider range of experiences than can be done in a novel. Put this on your calendar to buy or check out at the library.

Jul 14

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. 

Best of Connie WillisMichael chose the story for this month, and I’m so happy that I did.

The story is “Fire Watch” by Connie Willis. It’s about a historian that can travel through time, though not always to the places he wants to go. It’s a conceit that informs several of Willis’ novels, including Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. I suspect that even those who don’t usually read science fiction will find this story enjoyable.

Originally published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, it won the Nebula in 1982 and the Hugo Award in 1983, both awards for Best Novelette. Both awards define “novelette” as a story between 7,500 and 17,500 words.  (A novella is 17,500 to 40,000 words).

Short story length is something that I’ve been thinking about lately. As a side-effect of Project Short Story, I’ve been gravitating to shorter stories, and finding myself impatient when reading longer stories.

I’m thrilled that Michael chose this story, because I’ve been reading almost exclusively literary fiction lately.

The link will take you to the story online, but if you prefer to read it in physical form, it is available in the new collection The Best of Connie Willis, which Michael talked about in BOTNS episode #238.

Please give it a read and share your thoughts here.

 

 

Jun 22

Two weeks’ worth of reading in one post! My travel schedule has quieted now, so I hope to go back to posting my reading roundups weekly. I’ve also got a few other things cooking in relation to Project Short Story.

We’re nearing the halfway point of the year, and so I thought it was time for something fun. What about a giveaway?

May We Shed These Human BodiesOne of my favorite collections is Amber Sparks’ May We Shed These Human Bodies. Most of the stories are very short. I think they are best digested one at a time, with space between to ponder and remember the images that Sparks creates so vividly. Our friends at Curbstone Splendor very kindly sent me a copy to review, but I had already purchased my own copy. So I’m going to send the extra to one of you. To enter, just click the link below and leave your name and email. If you would like to tell me your favorite short story, there’s a place for that, and I’ll put together a list of everybody’s responses and share it here.  Deadline is midnight (PST) Sunday June 31st. I’ll do a random number drawing on Monday, July 1st.

Click here to enter the giveaway for May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks

 

And now the recap of my two weeks of reading:

Two stories for my writing class (sadly coming to an end).

The Chinese Lesson” by AM Homes, (available free online from Granta for a limited time),  from Things You Should Know. Homes was named the winner of The Women’s Prize 2013 (formerly The Orange Prize). She said that the characters in this story are a “character precursor” to Harry and Claire in her novel May We Be Forgiven. I haven’t read the novel, so I thought I’d introduce myself to Homes’ work through this story.

Last Night” by James Salter. A re-read, in anticipation of our group discussion of the short story at Booktopia Washington. It was a fabulous discussion. If you want to try a short story conversation with your book group or other group of friends, I recommend this story; there is much to discuss, and it seemed to appeal to people in both the pro- and con- sides of the short story divide. This is the Books on the Nightstand June short story read-along, so if you haven’t left your comments yet on that thread, please do!

Cadiz, Missouri” by Robert Long Foreman. Foreman is an acquaintance of mine through Twitter, recently posted that this story (originally published in AGNI 75) won a Pushcart Prize. It will be reprinted in the 2014 Pushcart anthology (which will be published in November 2014), but I couldn’t wait. When Robert offered to send it to me to read, I was excited. And it was eerily timely. Though I’m sure the story was written long before the tornadoes that recently wiped out Moore, Oklahoma, that disaster was fresh in my mind as I read it. In the story, the narrator, who recently moved to Missouri, tells of what happened when a tornado levels a neighboring town.

Rorschach” by Lex Williford, in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction. I’ve been playing with flash fiction, both reading and writing, and this book is an interesting survey of the form.  “Rorschach” is a story included in Williford’s essay, “Forty Stories in the Desert.” He created an inkblot and listed each image that he saw within that inkblot. He then worked each of those images into a single story. I find the exercise intriguing, as it positions the writing of flash fiction as a kind of parlor game. Be warned if I invite you to my house and instruct you to bring a notebook and pen.

Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway, first published in 1927 in the collection Men Without Women. Read for a class that focused on the single-scene story. OK, confession. I don’t like this story. I realized what it was about on the second read, but if it weren’t for class, I would have stopped reading on the first page. I know it’s Hemingway, and it’s a much-lauded and anthologized story, but this is the type of story that made me think that I didn’t like the form.

The School,” by Donald Barthelme. A re-read for class, and I still love it. In fact, I think it gets better with every re-read.

Olympus Hills,” by Ron Carlson. I need to read more Carlson. I have only read a few of his stories and the novel Five Skies, but I really like everything I’ve read. In fact, I’m putting his collection, A Kind of Flying: Selected Stories, on my to-buy list for my next visit to the bookstore.

Dog Heaven” by Stephanie Vaughn (read by Tobias Wolff on The New Yorker Fiction Podcast) – A re-listen, read for class. Discussion on this story in our class was mixed — some liked it, others didn’t. I’m not quite sure how I feel. It felt a little long to me, though perhaps that was my mood.  It’s a story that I could see also working as a novel, and makes me wonder how (if) the author made the choice to write it as a story.

The Evil B.B. Chow” by Steve Almond, from The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories. You may know Steve Almond from his nonfiction book Candy Freak, but he’s also an instructor at Grub Street, the writing center in Boston where I’ve been taking classes. I was curious about his short fiction, so decided to start at the beginning of this collection. I confess that the title got me. I’m a sucker for a good short story title.

And finally, three stories from May We Shed These Human Bodies: (Don’t forget to enter the contest!)

  • The Monstrous Sadness of Mythical Creatures”  – what it may have looked like when Paul Bunyan grew old. Paul Bunyan was a looming figure in my childhood and so I loved this story.
  • The World After This One – The story of Edith and Ellie, two sisters who live with their preacher father. This story is very visual, with imagery so vivid that I won’t soon forget it.
  • The Poet in Convalescence” – This may be my favorite story from this collection, at least so far (I’ve read about 1/3). Sparks’ word play, and the entire premise of the story, appeals to me on so many levels. And yet the story is more than a gimmick — it’s a fully complete and emotional story.  If you love words, you must read this. If you love stories, you must read this.
Jun 07

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.

Jun 06

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”

First, I’d like to publicly thank three brave souls, Xtian Paula, Callie LaFleur, and Toni Clark, who were brave enough to post or link to their list stories inspired by the May read-along. Well done, and thank you for playing along! I enjoyed all of the stories very much.

So now on to June.

Last Night: Stories by James SalterJames Salter has just published his first novel in more than 30 years, All That Is, to glorious reviews and major profiles.

So I think it’s time that we read a classic Salter story: “Last Night.” It’s one of my favorite short stories.

The story appears in Salter’s collection, Last Night: Stories.

If you’d like to read it online, the story is available at The New Yorker website: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2002/11/18/021118fi_fiction?currentPage=all, and you can also listen to the story on The New Yorker Fiction podcast, read by Thomas McGuane: http://www.newyorker.com/online/2009/01/12/090112on_audio_mcguane
And then, let’s talk about it. Leave your thoughts below. I’m off to Booktopia in Bellingham, Washington, where we’ll be discussing this story in person, but I’ll be checking in frequently to see what you have to say.
And if you’re like me, you’ll read it twice.
May 31

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”

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and I confess that I have had a few days where I have completely forgotten about reading a short story. So I’ve done a bit of catch up. I’m still on track to average one story per day — but my one story and only one story rule has gone out the window as I make up for missed days.

Before I list my two weeks of reading, a few bits of news related to short stories:

Irish postage stampA new postage stamp in Ireland features a complete short story. This is the coolest thing ever. If any of you are reading this from Ireland and would like to send me a stamp, I will happily share my mailing address.

Lydia Davis won the Man Booker International Prize. This is a big deal. Davis is known mainly for her short stories, and some of them are very short. I had not read Davis until this week. Ali Smith wrote a nice piece on Davis for The Guardian that you may find interesting, and there is a second Guardian article that says Davis is considering writing some microfiction via Twitter.

Just today, the shortlist for the Frank O’Connor Short Story award was announced. Two of the collections appear to be published only in the UK, but I’ll try to hunt them down. I’ve read stories from Claire Vaye Watkins’ Battleborn and from Peter Stamm’s We’re Flying, and I’d love to sample some of the others before the award is given in July.

Lastly, one of the reasons I neglected short stories this week was because I was completely wrapped up in Elliott Holt’s new novel, You Are One of Them. So blame her. Elliott has been the source of many of my short story recommendations this year, so don’t be too angry. Elliott has also written some short fiction on Twitter, in a very intriguing structure of tweets. Check it out.

So on to my reading from the past two weeks. It’s chock full of flash and micro fiction, which is not only a time saver, but is becoming a favorite form of mine to read. I am constantly amazed at the way authors can build a complete story in 250 or 1000 words.

“The Seventy-Fourth Virgin” by M.C. Armstrong from The Pushcart Prize XXXVII (2013 edition) is the longest story I read this week. It’s a somewhat confusing story set in the near future US, where some kind of religious war is happening.

The rest of the stories are very short. In honor of Lydia Davis’ win, I read “Five Stories” by Davis as featured on Conjunctions. I don’t know if Davis meant the five stories to be on the same page, or if that was a decision that Conjunctions made. Are they five separate stories? I’m not sure, but I’m counting them as one. I particularly love “The Mice.”

“Produce” by Sarah Gerkensmeyer features a woman who cries on the fruits and vegetables in a grocery store.

For my Uncle Danny” by Danny Nowell on the Tin House blog – flash fiction, in which the narrator remembers his Uncle Danny, who was a paratrooper in Vietnam.

A Conversation at the Grownup Table, as Imagined at the Kids’ Table,” by Simon Rich on The New Yorker. This is one of three pieces under the heading “The Wisdom of Children.” It’s brilliant and funny and oh so true.

“Death and the People” (sample the first few lines here), “To Make Us Whole,” and “The Dictator is Drinking Alone,” all by Amber Sparks in May We Shed These Human Bodies. This is a very wonderful story collection that I want to read in its entirety. Of the three stories, “Death and the People” was my favorite, but they are all great — surreal, filled with imagery and humor, and short but powerful. After three stories, I can confidently recommend that you buy the entire collection.

“”Twins” by Pamela Painter and “Chalk” by Meg Kearney are both from a collection called Sudden Flash Youth, a collection of flash fiction where the characters are all young people. It contains many coming of age stories, some funny, some sad. This is a book for adults, even those who don’t read young adult, but fans of literary young adult fiction will also like this. It’s a great collection to share with a teen (though I’m keeping it a secret from my own kid so she doesn’t steal it).

The bulk of the stories this week, however, come from a collection called Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Fifty Really Short Stories, edited by Jerome Stern. It’s a small paperback, and each story is under 300 words. From this book I read:

  • “The Poet’s Husband” by Molly Giles
  • “The Cough” by Harry Humes
  • “Daydream” by Robert Allen
  • “Wrong Channel” by Roberto Fernandes
  • “Harmony” by Joy Williams

My favorite was “Wrong Channel,” which is a funny story about language and being misunderstood, but also says something about the world. Hunt this one down if you can; it will make you smile.

I’m doing more travel over the next 10 days, and am looking forward to more very short fiction.

 

May 18

 

There was no theme to my reading this week, and I chose my stories more or less on a whim. Aside from my classmate’s story that I had to critique, this is what I read:

The week began with “Born of Man and Woman,” an incredibly disturbing story by Richard Matheson. This book was recommended by our friend Eric Kibler. Coincidentally, I read this the day after the three missing Cleveland women were found. There are just enough similarities in setting that an indelible line formed in my mind between the story and the news. I wasn’t able to find the story online at a site that was reliably authorized to reprint, so you’ll need to find this on your own.

Meat, My Husband” by Lydia Davis from Almost No Memory – An odd little story about a marriage. The story begins with the narrator telling us how she learned that her husband’s favorite food was corned beef.

Jack of Coins” by Christopher Rowe at Tor.com – This was recommended to me by Gwenda Bond, author of Blackwood. (She fully disclosed that Christopher Rowe is her husband). Set in a dystopian world, a stranger appears dressed in a band-leader costume. Who is he? Where are we? This story is full of wonderful imagery, and it made me want to learn more.

A Good Man is Hard to Find,” Flannery O’Connor. I read this one again for a class assignment, this time focusing on how O’Connor uses dialogue in such a masterful way.

Regeneration at Mukti,” Julia Elliott. In The Pushcart Prize XXXVII (2013 edition), edited by Bill Henderson – There is so much here to admire. We meet our main character at a spa where they administer very unusual skin treatments to those who want to regain their youthful appearance. I came away believing that this place could actually exist. Maybe it does.

Punchline,” by Erin McGraw, also from The Pushcart Prize XXXVII (2013 edition)- A priest has an existential crisis as a result of loss. Not my favorite story, but well crafted.

I know this is short and somewhat disjointed, but please know that I am still keeping up on my daily story. Some days it’s all I can do to take in the final words before my eyes close, but short stories have become my nightcap. I can’t imagine most nights without one.

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