Short Stories in Literary Magazines

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Short Stories in Literary Magazines

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1jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 13, 2016, 11:29 am

Some of the most interesting, diverse, and experimental short stories I've read have been in literary magazines -- both in print and online. I don't read as many literary magazines as I used to, though I do read a lot of short story anthologies.

So, I'm going to start sharing some of these wonderful stories here with the following information. Feel free to share your thoughts on any of them.

Magazine Name:

Story Genre:

Story Title:

Story Author:

Link:

Excerpt:

Comments:

ETA: This is a good article listing some contemporary innovators of the short story in the US: http://electricliterature.com/contemporary-innovators-of-the-short-story-a-readi...

2jennybhatt
Editado: Fev 25, 2016, 3:54 am

To get us started:

Magazine Name: The New Yorker

Story Genre: Literary & Sci-fi Hybrid

Story Title: Black Box

Story Author: Jennifer Egan

Link: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/06/04/black-box-2

Excerpt (4-5 lines):

“What are you doing?” from your Designated Mate amid choppy waves after he has followed you into the sea may or may not betray suspicion.

Your reply—“Swimming”—may or may not be perceived as sarcasm.

“Shall we swim together toward those rocks?” may or may not be a question.

“All that way?” will, if spoken correctly, sound ingenuous.

“We’ll have privacy there” may sound unexpectedly ominous.

Comments:

I confess I have not read any of Egan's books yet. And, while this is not a new story, I stumbled onto it through a Google rabbit hole. I loved it. It's a bit on the long side for an online story, but, this is TNY. What I loved is how this narrative style unfolds a thriller-like spy story that is also a bit futuristic/sci-fi. As I read, I was thinking, "Wow. This is the female James Bond story. But, told in a way that is way more exciting than Ian Fleming."

If you haven't read it, please do. See if it doesn't blow you away too.

3krolik
Fev 25, 2016, 3:46 am

You might also want to mention the title: "Black Box."

This is a very interesting story. I think of it as dystopian Jane Bond. It was also a formal experiment, first appearing on Twitter over a period of ten days, so the narrative fragments were all tweets. The print version came out a bit later.

4jennybhatt
Editado: Fev 25, 2016, 3:56 am

Oops. Sorry. Yes, fixed.

And, I didn't know about the Twitter version. Thanks for that.

ETA: The format makes sense now because I wondered about how it was a story all told in sentence sections like that. :)

5jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 10, 2016, 9:08 am

Ah well. I guess I'll keep posting to see if others are interested enough to join in. :)

Magazine Name: Virginia Quarterly Review Online

Story Genre: Literary & Sci-fi Hybrid

Story Title: EDickinsonRepliLuxe

Story Author: Joyce Carol Oates

Link: http://www.vqronline.org/fiction/edickinsonrepliluxe

Excerpt (4-5 lines):

The wife said suddenly, “Emily Dickinson! I want her.” The salesman asked how the name was spelled and typed rapidly into his computer. The husband was struck by the wife’s excitement. It was rare in recent years to see Mrs. Krim looking so girlish, so vulnerable, laying her hand on his arm in this public place and saying, blushing, “In my heart I’ve always been a poet, I think. My Loomis grandmother from Maine, she gave me a volume of Emily Dickinson’s verse when I was just a child. My early poems—I’d showed you when we first met, some of them . . . It’s tragic how life tears us away from . . . ”

Comments:

JCO has had a fascination with Emily Dickinson for a long time -- many reviews/articles out there. This story is typically dark in JCO-fashion. But, it's such a fun read too.

6jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 10, 2016, 9:09 am

Magazine Name: Zoetrope All-Story Extra

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: You in America

Story Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Link: http://www.all-story.com/extra/issue38/adichie.html

Excerpt (4-5 lines):

The first weeks you wanted to write though, because you had stories to tell. You wanted to write about the surprising openness of people in America, how eagerly they told you about their mother fighting cancer, about their sister-in-law's preemie—things people should hide, should reveal only to the family members who wished them well. You wanted to write about the way people left so much food on their plates and crumpled a few dollar bills down, as though it was an offering, expiation for the wasted food. You wanted to write about the child who started to cry and pull at her blond hair and instead of the parents making her shut up, they pleaded with her and then they all got up and left.

Comments:

Adichie's story about a new immigrant in America resonated with me because I, too, am a first-generation immigrant. And, like the protagonist of this story, I had all kinds of preconceived notions about the US before I came. I was both pleasantly surprised and mildly horrified by how my notions were disproved or proved. The second-person POV makes this feel more immediate as well.

7jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 10, 2016, 9:10 am

Joy Williams won the PEN/Malamud Prize this past week for her short stories. So, here's one I particularly enjoyed.

Magazine Name: The Offing

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Souvenir

Story Author: Joy Williams

Link: http://theoffingmag.com/fiction/souvenir/

Excerpt (4-5 lines):

"They weren’t going to tell any scary stories, not these two. Weren’t going to tell this crowd about the vanishing hitchhiker or the man with half a face. Or the ones about the boiled baby’s revenge and the body of water that likes to break little boys’ backs. They were just going to play a few games, give these tourists something to remember. What did they think life was, a vacation?"

Comments:

Not having read much of Williams' work at all before, I went searching for some online after I read about her award. This is a wonderful, dryly-narrated story, starting out pretty light and then turning dark. That, right there, is so hard to do. And, when it's done right, so satisfying to read. It starts out like an O Henry story, almost, with the rich details and the satirical glances at the tourists and the locals. Then, as it gets towards the end, it's almost like a Joyce Carol Oates story in how it darkens. Beautifully done.

8jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 10, 2016, 9:10 am

The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award is the biggest (£30,000) prize for a single short story in the English language. The award is open to any novelist or short story writer from around the world who is published in the UK. Past winner and shortlistees have included Hilary Mantel, Junot Diaz, Yiyun Li, Anthony Doerr, Meira Chand, and more.

This past week, they announced Jonathan Tel as the 2016 winner. Tel has a MS in Theoretical Physics and a PhD in Philosophy of Science from Stanford. And he just happens to write award-winning fiction.

Here are the 6 shortlisted stories -- all amazing. If anyone's looking for some weekend reading.

http://shortstoryaward.co.uk/shortlists/2016

9elenchus
Maio 3, 2016, 4:10 pm

>8 jennybhatt:

Wow, the Jonathan Tel story is quite good, and disturbing. I'll try to remember to revisit the page for some of the other nominee stories.

10jennybhatt
Maio 4, 2016, 9:06 am

>9 elenchus: Yes, I loved the Tel story. Read it twice. Beautifully disturbing indeed. I've read 'Dacha' as well, which is well-told but doesn't stay with you as the Tel story does. I, too, need to revisit to finish reading the other stories.

11jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 10, 2016, 9:11 am

Magazine Name: Electric Literature / Fifth Wednesday Journal

Story Genre: Magical Realism or a Modern Retelling of a Folk Tale

Story Title: This Door You Might Not Open

Story Author: Susan Scarf Merrell

Link: https://medium.com/electric-literature/this-door-you-might-not-open-6d4767979927...

Excerpt (4-5 lines):

I tell her I left the egg outside the room, the one he told me I was to carry always. “Death comes to anyone who drops the egg,” he said before he left on that first journey, a few months into our marriage. In his voice, I heard regret — eons of it. Not simply his own, but that of his brothers, his father, his uncles. (No one lives forever, not even Bluebeard.) His family has always preferred mine.
And me? The fact is, I forgot his orders. Or so I tell myself. Some weeks after his departure, I placed the egg on the table in the hall, watched it wobble for a moment, and went inside the room.

Comments:

This is a retelling of the famous 'Bluebeard' folktale about a rich man who kills his wives when they disobey him. It has been passed down in Europe orally with slightly different variations. Here's a bit more history/context: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s7894.html.

This retelling is where the wife now has power and the husband has to obey her. It is also set in the present-day with emails, supermarkets, television, and so on. What I enjoyed most here was Merrell's beautiful writing. In the introduction, Rachel Pastan writes:

"Exploring how the world is changing is central to Merrell’s motive, but what I love most about this story is how it sets modern questions in a world that still feels enchanted, crepuscular, alive with the unbounded possible. Partly she does this through the way she uses language. Her prose is both clean and incantatory, and she knows when to explain and when to leave a mystery. In a kind of prismatic sorcery, we see the old “Bluebeard” story in a new way, yet at the same time we feel the hundred tenacious threads that connect our new world with the old one. In both, Merrell suggests, marriage can be perilous territory. A locked, bloody room inside which anything can happen."

12jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 10, 2016, 9:11 am

Magazine Name: A Public Space

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness

Story Author: Jai Chakrabarti

Link: http://apublicspace.org/magazine/detail/a_small_sacrifice_for_an_enormous_happin...

Excerpt (4-5 lines):

“My dearest, fairest boy,” he said. “I want our love to increase.”

Sharma raised his eyebrows, those lines thickly drawn, nearly fused. Who better than Sharma to know Nikhil’s heart? Who but Sharma to take it all in stride?

“I desire to have a child with you,” Nikhil said.

Nikhil had trouble reading Sharma’s expression in the waning light, so he repeated himself. His fingers were shaking, but he took Sharma’s hand anyway, gave it a squeeze.

“I heard you the first time,” Sharma said.

Comments:

This is the not-quite-a-love-story between an older man and a younger man in a country where such love is taboo. Yet, they've worked out a kind of relationship that has been ticking along without any issues till the older man decides he wants to have a child with the younger one. Then, the fault lines begin to appear. And, we get to an ending that is, all at once, sad, sweet, and silly. Beautifully-told.

13jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 10, 2016, 9:11 am

Magazine Name: Catapult

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Harsingar

Story Author: Amitava Kumar

Link: https://catapult.co/stories/harsingar

Excerpt (4-5 lines):

Satyadev’s father was a Deputy Superintendent of Police. He had shot himself in his bedroom. My mother revealed this to me. Satyadev’s father suspected that his wife was having an affair with a music director. My mother also mentioned that there is one detail in “Bungalow Number 43” that is drawn from real life. The young woman in the story, a dancer, wears small, white harsingar flowers in her hair. That is exactly how Satyadev’s mother used to adorn her hair.

Comments:

Another author of Indian origin today. Just happenstance. Amitava Kumar is also a Professor at Vassar in NY. This story is a coming-of-age, kinda, for the narrator, who grows up to be a writer. It's the adult writer looking back on his childhood and adolescence and putting the pieces together. All introspection, as they say, is really retrospection, as is the case with this story. And, through this narrator's retrospection, we understand the unrequited loves that have filled his own life.

14jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 8, 2016, 12:21 pm

Magazine/Award Name: The 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize Regional Winners

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Various

Story Author: Various

Link: http://www.commonwealthwriters.org/2016-commonwealth-short-story-prize-regional-...

Excerpt (4-5 lines):

Chair, South African novelist and playwright Gillian Slovo, said of the regional winners: “From Faraaz Mahomed’s ‘The Pigeon’ with its playful tone and unreliable narrator, Parashar Kulkarni’s ‘Cow and Company’, a witty satire that engagingly immerses the reader in its world, and ‘Eel’, a simply told and moving story of childhood by Stefanie Seddon to Lance Dowrich’s comedic ‘Ethelbert and the Free Cheese’ and Tina Makereti’s ‘Black Milk’, which impressed with a lyricism that takes the reader into another world while keeping us always on earth, these were all worthy winners and show how well the short story is flourishing in the Commonwealth.”

Comments (what you particularly enjoyed about the story):

Each year, they select five winning writers from five different Commonwealth regions. Regional winners receive £2,500 (US$3,835) and the overall winner will receive £5,000 (US$7,670). If the winning short story is a translation into English, the translator will receive equal prize money. Entry is free.

This year, Granta magazine is publishing, online, each of the regional winners every Wednesday over the next few weeks. Links are embedded at the above link. The overall winner will be announced at the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica on 5 June.

UPDATE: Parashar Kulkarni is the first Indian to win this prize, beating out 4000 entries. Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/06/commonwealth-short-story-prize-goe....

Also, watch him being interviewed on BBC World Service here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G3yU8DoKDg

15jennybhatt
Maio 15, 2016, 10:17 am

Magazine Name: Catapult

Story Genre: Horror

Story Title: Boyfriend

Story Author: Carmen Lau

Link: https://catapult.co/stories/boyfriend

Excerpt (4-5 lines):

Oftentimes while my boyfriend sleeps in the afternoon, I playact his murder by holding a train spike to his heart. The spike, my most precious belonging, is the only secret I keep from him. I found it not long after I met my boyfriend, not long after my first kill. I was walking along the train tracks, the iron still in my nose, the red and the stink still in my eyes.

Comments (what you particularly enjoyed about the story):

I'm not a fan of vampire stories. Or, really, even the horror genre. But, there's something about how this one unfolds, the language, the images, the rhythms. It stays with you after you finish reading.

16jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 2, 2016, 12:17 pm

Magazine Name: Various as this is the O Henry Prize for Short Stories

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Various

Story Author: Various

Link: http://lithub.com/announcing-the-2016-o-henry-prize-stories/

Excerpt: (from TRAIN TO HARBIN by ASAKO SERIZAWA)

I once met a man on the train to Harbin. He was my age, just past his prime, hair starting to grease and thin in a way one might have thought passably distinguished in another context, in another era, when he might have settled down, reconciled to finishing out his long career predictably. But it was 1939. War had officially broken out between China and Japan, and like all of us on that train, he too had chosen to take the bait, that one last bite before acquiescing to life’s steady decline. You see, for us university doctors, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We all knew it. Especially back then.

Comments:

Throughout the year, magazine editors submit their issues to The O. Henry Prize Stories series editor. The stories must be published in an American or Canadian periodical and originally written in English. Novel excerpts and works in translation are not considered. Online publications are not eligible for submission to the O. Henry Prize Stories.

From the multitude of stories submitted, the editor chooses twenty winners that stand out above the rest. Each juror then reads the twenty winning stories in manuscript form, without knowledge of author names or publications. Without consulting one another, they each select their favorite and write a short essay about what led them to their choice. These final twenty also make it into an anthology.

ETA: This article, by one of the editorial assistants on the judging panel for this prize, about the state of the short story is pretty good too.

https://medium.com/electric-literature/at-the-end-of-an-unlit-dead-end-corridor-...

17jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 10, 2016, 9:12 am

Magazine Name: Library of America Story of the Week

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Spring Day

Story Author: Amy Lowell

Link: http://storyoftheweek.loa.org/2016/05/spring-day.html

Excerpt (4-5 lines):

The day takes her ease in slippered yellow. Electric signs gleam out along the shop fronts, following each other. They grow, and grow, and blow into patterns of fire-flowers as the sky fades. Trades scream in spots of light at the unruffled night. Twinkle, jab, snap, that means a new play; and over the way: plop, drop, quiver, is the sidelong sliver of a watchmaker’s sign with its length on another street. A gigantic mug of beer effervesces to the atmosphere over a tall building, but the sky is high and has her own stars, why should she heed ours?

Comments (what you particularly enjoyed about the story):

Amy Lowell was a poet and this piece of prose is lyrical and poetic. A young woman describes, from dawn to dusk, a seemingly uneventful yet glorious spring day, which she begins by taking a bath. This kind of story may not be everyone's cuppa and, for the most part, I don't go for it myself. But, in this case, what Lowell does with language, imagery, synesthesia, musicality, metaphor, and so on is beautiful and worth savoring for a few minutes of the day -- like a richly-detailed painting or a nuanced piece of music.

18jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 10, 2016, 9:13 am

Magazine Name: Words Without Borders

Story Genre: Literary and Magical Realism

Story Title: Maria Times Seven

Story Author: Martha Batiz

Link: http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/article/june-2016-latino-canadian-lit-feature...

Excerpt:

Once reunited with her seven Marías, Doña Toña didn’t know which one to console first. María couldn’t stop crying for her lost love, and the others suffered along with her. The tears were so copious that the floor of the house began to flood. Doña Toña gave up on the idea of using absorbent towels and had to bring out her cups and jars first, then a couple of rusty buckets to gather up the water. The more María remembered Juan, the greater the distress she felt, and the more they all wept. Doña Toña finally emptied all her liquor, sauce, and vinegar bottles so she could fill them with tears. In a few days the whole town knew what was happening in the house and, motivated more by curiosity than by compassion, the village women showed up with more containers to contain the tears, which flowed without end.

Comments:

This is a beautifully-told story about a mother and her seven daughters, all of whom have the ability to experience each others' physical sensations and emotions simultaneously. This leads to certain interesting incidents and consequences, as you might imagine.

19jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 15, 2016, 11:09 am

Magazine Name: Missouri Review

Story Genre: Surreal/Fantastical/Speculative

Story Title: The Rememberer

Story Author: Aimee Bender

Link: http://www.missourireview.com/archives/bbarticle/the-rememberer/

Excerpt:

My lover is experiencing reverse evolution. I tell no one. I don't know how it happened, only that one day he was my lover and the next he was some kind of ape. It's been a month, and now he's a sea turtle.

I keep him on the counter, in a baking pan filled with saltwater.

"Ben," I say to his small protruding head, "can you understand me?" and he stares with eyes like little droplets of tar and I drip tears into the pan, a sea of me.

Comments:

This isn't a newly-published story but, everytime I reread it, I find something new to pay attention to. Based on Darwinian evolution theory, this story explores devolution in a way that's really also, to me, a satire because Ben, the protagonist's lover undergoing this devolution, is hankering after a simpler time from the past. But, what does that kind of nostalgia mean? Have we, as human beings, really gone beyond living by the same survival instincts that our predecessors had? There are many such implied questions to explore as we read this story and Bender does not give us any answers at all, which is the best thing for a story to do: to make its readers think through both the questions and the answers for themselves.

Here's a terrific story analysis too: https://mastersreview.com/stories-that-teach-the-rememberer-by-aimee-bender-disc...

20jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 10, 2016, 9:13 am

Magazine Name: The New Yorker

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Two Men Arrive in a Village

Story Author: Zadie Smith

Link: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/06/06/two-men-arrive-in-a-village-by-zadi...

Excerpt:

Two men arrive in a village by foot, and always a village, never a town. If two men arrive in a town they will obviously arrive with more men, and far more in the way of supplies—that’s simple common sense. But when two men arrive in a village their only tools may be their own dark or light hands, depending, though most often they will have in these hands a blade of some kind, a spear, a long sword, a dagger, a flick-knife, a machete, or just a couple of rusty old razors. Sometimes a gun. It has depended, and continues to depend.

Comments:

What I love about this story is how Smith gives us a very specific story, but also one that could be universal -- the way she presents the archetypal characters, the setting descriptions, and the plot points to show how these two men of the title could arrive in any kind of village (even a high-rise building, which she says could be a vertical village), do the things they do, and elicit the kinds of reactions they get.

It reads like an allegorical tale too, as she discusses in this interview with Deborah Treisman: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/fiction-this-week-zadie-smith-2016-06...

21jennybhatt
Jun 10, 2016, 9:05 am

Lisa McInerney won the Bailey's Prize for fiction this week for her murder thriller The Glorious Heresies. Read more here: http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-36477620

Here's a newly-published story by her.

Magazine Name: Granta

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Navigation

Story Author: Lisa McInerney

Link: http://granta.com/navigation/

Excerpt:

Monty’s real name is Martin but he’s called Monty because he’s hook-nosed and gaunt and threadbare, like spite’s worn him hungry; he’s the twentysomething-year-old bulb off Mr Burns. This is not a nickname Jack nor any of Jack’s buddies came up with: Monty’s place in the world precedes them, and Jack feels very green around him; Jack feels scared. But the task has fallen to him, and now he’s got an arrangement with Monty that’s threatening to become comfortable. He’s wedged in with him. Jack never wanted to be his friends’ drug-runner.

Comments:

This isn't the first story I've read about a bunch of young people getting drunk and drugged out at a house party, then having sex with the wrong people. But, what McInerney gives us is a matter-of-fact narrative that draws us into the scenes very cleverly. Each of the main characters also has a uniquely-presented voice, which is always tricky to do. And, in the end, we see Jack, the protagonist, sort of getting past his issues by coming round to the casual afterthought of "Funny ould world" because of an idle story his drug dealer's grandfather, Paddy, tells him. Paddy also gives him some sage advice re. how to navigate one's road, which, as Jack says, "Makes sense."

22jennybhatt
Jun 10, 2016, 9:27 am

Akhil Sharma won the €100,000 Dublin International literary award for his autobiographical novel, Family Life. "Sharma describes the almost 13 years it took him to write Family Life as “a nightmare – like chewing stones, chewing gravel”, said it had taken a few days for his win to sink in... It was one of 160 titles up for the prize, with nominations spanning 43 countries."

More re. the award and his novel here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/09/akhil-sharma-wins-100000-dublin-in...

Below is a story that is an excerpt from that novel. I think it might have been one of the earlier drafts of what finally went into the book because this was published in 2014.

Magazine Name: The New Yorker

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: A Mistake

Story Author: Akhil Sharma

Link: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/01/20/a-mistake

Excerpt:

I used to assume that my father had been assigned to us by the government. This was because he appeared to serve no purpose. When he got home in the evening, all he did was sit in his chair in the living room, drink tea, and read the paper. Often he looked angry. By the time we left for America, when I was eight and Birju was twelve, I knew that the government had not assigned him to live with us. Still, I continued to think that he served no purpose.

Comments:

The overall story is that of how a younger brother, after emigrating with his family from India to the US, deals with his older brother's accident and subsequent coma. It is more than a story about an immigrant trying to assimilate into his new home country. He's also trying to navigate how his relationships with each family member are changing, even as they are all trying to create their new self-identities. And, then, when tragedy comes for the older brother who is the smarter, handsomer one full of a bright future, the younger one is left to deal with many complex, unspoken emotions of guilt, shame, fear, and so on. It is rather beautifully-told because we get both humor and pain coming together in just the right doses and at just the right moments -- a very tricky thing to do.

23jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 14, 2016, 12:33 am

Magazine Name: New Statesman (not a lit mag, actually)

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: The Pier Falls

Story Author: Mark Haddon

Link: http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/04/pier-falls-new-short-story-mark-hadd...

Excerpt:

On the landward section two people lie motionless on the decking and three others are too badly injured to move. A woman is shaking the body of her unconscious husband as if he has overslept and is late for work, while a man with tattooed forearms chases the petrified cocker spaniel in a large figure of eight. An elderly lady has had a fatal heart attack and remains seated on a bench, head tilted to one side as if she has dozed off and missed all the excitement.

Comments:

The power in this story is in how the tragedy unfolds cinematically. The opening paragraphs are like the opening scene of a movie/show, as Haddon's "camera" scans the environs, zooms in, pans out, and so on. Only the very skilled writers can do this -- give us sight, sound, smell, taste, touch with words in a way that doesn't overwhelm or underwhelm. Within a span of 12 hours, we get to see how nearly 70 people die. This is not a story for the weak-hearted. My pulse was racing just reading this as the visuals kept flashing before my eyes. And they will stay with me long, I know that.

Pair this with a recent article by Haddon about the writing of short stories, where he wrote:

I have read too many beige short stories in my life, too many short stories that feel like five-finger exercises. There are limits to what can happen in the real world. In fiction there are no limits: anything is possible on paper. It seems to me that if you are writing a short story and it is not more entertaining than the stories in that morning’s newspaper or that evening’s TV news, then you need to throw it away and start again, or open a cycle repair shop.


https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/23/mark-haddon-writing-short-stories-...

24jennybhatt
Editado: Jun 18, 2016, 10:30 am

Magazine Name: The New Yorker

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: The Bog Girl

Story Author: Karen Russell

Link: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/06/20/bog-girl-by-karen-russell

You can also listen to the author reading the story out loud: http://www.newyorker.com/podcast/the-authors-voice/karen-russell-reads-the-bog-g...

Excerpt:

But Cillian barely heard the talk above him. If you saw the Bog Girl from one angle only, you would assume that she was a cherished daughter, laid to rest by hands that loved her. But she had been killed, and now her smile seemed even more impressive to him, and he wanted only to protect her from future harm. The men kept calling her “the body,” which baffled Cillian—the word seemed to blind them to the deep and flowing dream-life behind her smile. “There is so much more to you than what they see,” he reassured her in a whisper. “I am so sorry about what happened to you. I am going to keep you safe now.”

Comments:

As it is with most of Karen Russell's work, this is a strange and beautiful story told in such immediate and arresting language that it grabs you right from the start. And, the unexpected ending leaves you somewhat breathless. A boy falls in love with a 2000-year-old dead, though well-preserved, girl he finds in a peat bog. Russell often invokes fantastical elements but she's not an outright fantasy/genre writer. She's also very good at balancing dark and light; serious and funny; humor and horror. Another thing I like about this story is how, while the story is about this boy and his love for this dead thing, where he imbues her with all his needs and longings, it is also the story about his evolving relationship with his mother as they're both growing/maturing in their own ways.

In an interview, Russell talked about how the story came about:

"Setting almost always comes first for me with short stories, but here I think I might have been inspired by a conversation I had with a friend. He was describing a love story that had turned into a horror story—his horror at having successfully awakened strong feelings in someone and discovering in that moment that he did not love her back. How often do we project our fantasies onto the mask of another person’s face, then feel betrayed when they turn out to have needs and depths of their own?"

This entire interview is worth reading, saving, and then rereading -- there is so much insight and wisdom about writing, life, and much more.

I like this bit too:

"The Bog Girl, for most of the story, is the perfect screen onto which everyone can project his or her own needs and fears and fantasies.

I’ll bet we’ve all had some version of this experience—a familiar person becomes a stranger, in real time. What’s scariest to me about this story is also maybe what’s most exhilarating—that moment when our theories about another person (or another epoch, another culture) collapse, and we are suddenly at sea again. Then we have to redraw our maps of what is possible, and of who we are sitting across from."

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/fiction-this-week-karen-russell-2016-...

25jennybhatt
Jun 17, 2016, 9:32 am

Magazine Name: Literary Hub

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: The Abandoned Village

Story Author: Hassan Blasim

Link: http://lithub.com/the-abandoned-village/

Excerpt:

Sawsan’s mother was too frightened to move to another town without her husband. Her familiar life in the village where she had always lived had been torn apart, and the woman was now living a nightmare. She had heard that the regime militias were committing atrocities. People called them the “ghosts” and said they raped women and girls but preferred those with fair complexions. So the mother decided to give Sawsan a suntan. She forced her to sit in the sun for hours on end. Maybe they would leave her daughter alone if her skin were the color of burnt barley bread. The woman took other precautions. She had a pistol, and she had gathered all the village dogs in front of her house in the hope that they would frighten off anyone thinking of coming close. Sawsan was as frightened as her mother. More than once she thought of running away, but she had no idea where she could go.

Comments:

I first came across Hassan Blasim, an Iraqi-born writer who writes in Arabic, when his book, The Iraqi Christ, won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. I recall reading a translated excerpt of that book somewhere and thinking I must read more by him. This story is part of a collection of 5 contemporary new Arabic short stories (see: http://lithub.com/new-arabic-fiction-5-contemporary-short-stories/). It was one of 24 published in The Common Mag, Issue 11, which was dedicated to new fiction from across the Arab world.

What I like about this story is how the narrator is a ghost, yet the story is not a ghost story. Yet, it gives a sort of otherworldly character to the overall narrative. I thought it was a rather sad story and, though we've read news accounts of such abandoned war zone villages and incidents of lone soldiers being tortured by enemy forces, reading about it here, like this, gives it a whole different kind of immediacy and poignancy. Most troubling of all, of course, is the central story about the mother and her daughter, both waiting for the father to return as he had promised them.

26jennybhatt
Jun 25, 2016, 5:44 am

Magazine Name: Buzzfeed Books

Genre: Literary

Title: If A Book Is Locked There’s Probably A Good Reason For That Don’t You Think

Author: Helen Oyeyemi

Link: https://www.buzzfeed.com/helenoyeyemi/keys?utm_term=.klN1eOZw8e#.kfXDyrYNjy

Excerpt:

Every time someone comes out of the lift in the building where you work you wish lift doors were made of glass. That way you’d be able to see who’s arriving a little before they actually arrive and there’d be just enough time to prepare the correct facial expression. Your new colleague steps out of the lift dressed just a tad more casually than is really appropriate for the workplace and because you weren’t ready you say “Hi!” with altogether too much force. She has: a heart shaped face with subtly rouged cheeks, short, straight, neatly cut hair and eyes that are long rather than wide. She’s black, but not local, this new colleague who wears her boots and jeans and scarf with a bohemian aplomb that causes the others to ask her where she shops. “Oh, you know, thrift stores,” she says with a chuckle. George at the desk next to yours says “Charity shops?” and the newcomer says “Yeah, thrift stores…”

Comments:

This is from Oyeyemi's latest short story collection, themed around locks and keys. Some of the stories are like fairytales and all of them have her characteristic surreal touches -- both in the worlds she presents and the language she uses.

This is set in a modern workplace, where the employees are obsessed with a new hire, Eva. But, soon enough, things turn against her, she's harassed by her coworkers, her diary is stolen, and things spiral out of control.

It's a weird kind of story because the narrator, another coworker, is the protagonist, really, and who we go on a journey with. The points of tension and conflict are beautifully set up and the ending leaves us wanting more.

Here's a pretty decent interview re. the collection: http://www.bookforum.com/interview/16190

27jennybhatt
Jun 28, 2016, 12:36 am

Magazine Name: Guernica

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Subcortical

Story Author: Lee Conell

Link: https://www.guernicamag.com/fiction/subcortical/

Excerpt:

In the early seventies, I began sleeping with a married doctor who wanted to cure homosexuality. I was twenty-one. In our hotel room, he showed me black-and-white photographs of patients’ brains like they were Kodak color snapshots of his own children at play: cooing over the cerebellum’s left lobe, marveling over the funniest reaction some area had had to electrical stimulation. I’m exaggerating a little, but not much. He pointed out, very tenderly, the deep brain and surface electrodes, his finger pads leaving sheeny traces of grease on the photograph.

Comments:

So, Lee Conell just won the Algren Award for a story called 'The Lock Factory' (which I'll come back and link to if I can). She has won praises from her fiction teachers in this article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/books/ct-nelson-algren-award-winner-lee...

That made me go google for some of her other work and I found this story first and couldn't stop reading it rightaway. Everything about it--the subject matter, the themes, the opening, how it goes in a direction that you sort of see coming but not really--hooked me in. It's also one of those short stories that you wish wouldn't end because you want to know more about what happened to all the main characters after this one life-changing episode for all of them. Which, by the way, is rather a tricky thing to achieve in a short story: have the lives of all key characters change from the single incident that is being narrated. I'm going to have to look out for more of Conell's work now.

28jennybhatt
Jun 28, 2016, 9:56 am

Magazine Name: New York Times

Story Genre: Literary/Satire

Story Title: The Arrangements

Story Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/03/books/review/melania-trump-in-chimamanda-ngozi...

Excerpt:

Melania decided she would order the flowers herself. Donald was too busy now anyway to call Alessandra’s as usual and ask for “something amazing.” Once, in the early years, before she fully understood him, she had asked what his favorite flowers were.

“I use the best florists in the city, they’re terrific,” he replied, and she realized that taste, for him, was something to be determined by somebody else, and then flaunted.

Comments:

Oh, this is just too delicious. An entire work of fiction starring the Trump family. And, it reads like it's all true, of course, in Adichie's expert hands. There isn't much I can add here other than: enjoy and you're welcome.

29jennybhatt
Jul 2, 2016, 1:59 am

Magazine Name: Tin House

Story Genre: Literary Flash Fiction

Story Title: Vacation

Story Author: Reem Abu-Baker

Link: http://www.tinhouse.com/blog/43473/vacation.html

Excerpt:

On vacation, I meet a man with awful bleachy hair. I am the kind of drunk that means I suck his dick while he brushes his teeth in the hotel room. He is the kind of drunk that means he grabs my tit for just a second before he passes out, mouth open, throat wet.

Comments:

I'm not much of a flash reader but I'm slowly getting into it. It's a tricky kind of prose to write, I imagine, because you have to tell an entire story in compression. There's more of an impetus to make it memorable and punchy. This particular story is definitely one of those. The opening lines (excerpt above) could have gone in many directions. And, the sex-with-a-stranger-while-on-vacation story is almost a sub-genre by itself. That said, this little paragraph of a story goes off in a rather unexpected direction and, in just a few sentences, we get an entire world and character that not only grab our attention right away, but also haunt us long after we are done reading.

30jennybhatt
Editado: Jul 5, 2016, 10:08 am

Magazine Name: Electric Literature

Story Genre: Literary / Magic Realism

Story Title: Three Stories

Story Author: Zakaria Tamer (translator: Maia Tabet)

Link: https://electricliterature.com/three-stories-bcd3cd684ba1#.viehnadck

Excerpt:

HASSAN AL-MAZAZ AL-SHAGHOURI HAD NEVER COMMITTED an ordinary, everyday crime: he hadn’t killed or robbed anyone, had never raped a girl, had not joined a party — either pro- or anti-government — and not once had he set foot in a police station, jail, or court of law. He did not smoke in places where smoking was banned, could not name the current president if asked, and would have had no use for the sword of Khalid Bin al-Walid himself, other than to peel an orange or cut open a watermelon. Nevertheless, the vigilant security authorities that knew the unknowable saw fit to detain him and jail him for nine years without charge until, at the start of his tenth year in detention, he was led into a court of law to appear before a judge.

Comments:

There is a great introduction by Jennifer Acker and Hisham Bustani in the link above so there is not much for me to add. Perhaps just this for now: somehow, the stories reminded me of some of the old Indian folk-tales we used to read/hear when growing up in India. The content is a bit different but the witty, sarcastic tone is very much the same. The only difference, I think, is that the Indian folktales made fun of the oppressed, showing how they had done foolish, silly things and, therefore, were on the receiving end of just punishment. Tamer, here, upends that by making fun of the oppressors. That appeals to me very much. :)

31jennybhatt
Editado: Ago 2, 2016, 9:38 am

Magazine Name: Caine Prize

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Memories We Lost

Story Author: Lidudumalingani

Link: http://caineprize.com/2016-shortlist/ for the entire shortlist and the PDF for the winning story.

Excerpt:

There was never a forewarning that this thing was coming. It came out of nowhere, as ghosts do, and it would disappear as it had come. Every time it left, I stretched my arms out in all directions, mumbled two short prayers, one to God and another to the ancestors, and then waited on my terrified sister to embrace me. The embraces, I remember, were always tight and long, as if she hoped the moment would last forever.

Every time this thing took her, she returned altered, unrecognizable, as if two people were trapped inside her, both fighting to get out, but not before tearing each other into pieces. The first thing that this thing took from her, from us, was speech, and then it took our memories. She began speaking in a language that was unfamiliar, her words trembling as if trying to relay unthinkable revelations from the gods. The memories faded one after the other until our past was a blur.

Comments:

‘Memories we Lost’ has been published in Incredible Journey: Stories That Move You (Burnet Media, South Africa, 2015).

The Caine Prize for African Writing is a literature prize awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English. The prize was launched in 2000 to encourage and highlight the richness and diversity of African writing by bringing it to a wider audience internationally. The focus on the short story reflects the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition. (http://caineprize.com)

As a Caine Prize winner, Lidudumalingani will be given the opportunity to take up a month’s residence at Georgetown University as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. In addition to a £10,000 prize, he’ll also be invited to speak at the Library of Congress and receive invitations to take part in Cape Town’s Open Book Festival, Nairobi’s Storymoja and Nigeria’s Ake Festival. (http://www.okayafrica.com/culture-2/literature/caine-prize-for-african-writing-2016-winner-lidudumalingani/).

“The winning story explores a difficult subject – how traditional beliefs in a rural community are used to tackle schizophrenia,” said the prize chair, Jarrett-Macauley. “This is a troubling piece, depicting the great love between two young siblings in a beautifully drawn Eastern Cape. Multi-layered, and gracefully narrated, this short story leaves the reader full of sympathy and wonder at the plight of its protagonists.”

This story explores mental health through the relationship of two sisters in a South African village, one of whom is schizophrenic and the other her protector. The sister’s situation deteriorates as her care is entrusted to Nkunzi, a local man who employs traditional techniques to rid people of their demons.

In a conversation with The Daily Vox, Lidudumalingani touched on the inspiration for the story. “The first might have been mental illness, or at least the way in which villagers speak and deal with it. Then there were conversations with friends, texts and visuals that suddenly were on my radar, memories of extended family members who struggled with mental illness – many of them on and off and at varying degrees.”

32jennybhatt
Editado: Jul 12, 2016, 1:10 pm

Magazine Name: n+1

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: The Sliding Door

Story Author: Jess Row

Link: https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/online-only/the-sliding-door/

Excerpt:

Then what are you?

I’m the three phone calls your mom got in the middle of the night last Thursday. I’m the dirt you can’t get out from underneath your left big toenail. I’m the reason your third cousin is named Nathan. I’m the price of gas in Nairobi. You see what happens? You see how all this is your fault? It’s so easy to slip off the track. Eliza. Not so hard. Hard name to forget, in point of fact. I’m not saying it was deliberate. Just saying you weren’t really trying.

Comments:

This is a darkly humorous story and my first by Jess Row. There's a very bright kid, a talking owl, and parents who've just about had enough of the kid. But, most interesting of all, there's this snappy dialogue that, while sounding flippant or dismissive or even diffident, is full of insight and a kind of raw truth that most of us can only see when we look back on particular incidents of our lives, as the narrator is doing here.

I am drawn to the story, mostly, because of the choice to include this imagined owl (and the narrator warns us a couple of times that what is being narrated didn't quite happen) as the antagonist while the parents sort of fade into the background. It is not only a different way to tell the story but it also puts an entirely different spin on the childhood incident being narrated.

The writing style/tone made me think of George Saunders. Not sure if there's some connection beyond the fact that they're both also Buddhists.

Anyway, I looked into some of Row's other work and he wrote a story involving India, which I'm linking here to come back and read later. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/08/amritsar/306904/

33jennybhatt
Jul 17, 2016, 11:51 am

Magazine Name: The Kenyon Review

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: US

Story Author: Oindrila Mukherjee

Link: http://www.kenyonreview.org/kr-online-issue/2016-summer/selections/oindrila-mukh...

Excerpt:

We are a mixed bunch. Some of us are going to study English, history, or political science. We are progressive and modern and eat animals indiscriminately and support homosexuality even though we have never known anyone who is gay. Some of us are engineers whose fathers slaved as government employees in small towns so we could attend the Indian Institute of Technology. We have spent most of our lives memorizing textbooks. Some of us are computer scientists. We want to write code and work for Microsoft or Apple. We are the most confident ones today because we have been told the Americans need us. All of us strain our ears to hear the conversations at the different windows. We envy the continuing student who is simply renewing her visa and gets done in a few minutes. Not everyone is so fortunate. One man in his thirties gesticulates wildly to make his case. He wears a cream shirt, a brown striped tie, black boots. His hair is slicked back, and he holds a brown folder. The agent, a middle-aged white woman, stares at the computer screen in front of her as they speak. She never smiles. The man looks around the room, pleading with us to help. In his eyes is a look of desperation. We hear the words “project,” “company,” “cousin.” The agent shakes her head and mouths the word “sorry.”

Comments:

Now, this is an all too familiar story for most first-generation Indian immigrants to the US of the past 2-3 decades. Most came to the US to study. Mukherjee writes this with the plural, collective "we" point of view, which is perfect for this kind of story because she is describing a huge common bond between so many people. In their home country, they might have lived entirely different lives. But, this one big life step of moving to the US binds them all in a long process and shared experience.

And, beautifully told so that there's tension ratcheting up throughout even as she gives us visuals that are, again, heartbreakingly familiar to first-generation Indian immigrants like myself.

There are some stories I read and I go, "Damn. I wanted to have written that." This is one of them.

34jennybhatt
Jul 21, 2016, 12:00 am

Magazine Name: Electric Literature

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Colleen

Story Author: Odie Lindsey

Link: https://electricliterature.com/colleen-895d6e657758#.kciz9bhgr

Excerpt:

Colleen lay awake the nights, staring at the popcorn-textured ceiling. Her bedroom window was propped open by a box fan, its draft blowing out against the thick Mississippi air. She smoked in slow, labored sighs, a glass ashtray on her tummy as she sprawled on her old twin bed. Now twenty-two, she’d gone from high school straight to Basic Training and AIT, then on to deployment, before circling right back to that rural, postwar starter home, and to her childhood bedroom, a chorus of graduation tassel and sapphire-paneled basketball trophy, her parents biting back the demand that she smoke outside.

Comments:

We don't get many stories about female war vets. This is one such. It's heartbreaking too.

Writer Mary Miller gives an excellent introduction, so I won't add more here other than excerpt some of that:

"The first time I read “Colleen,” I hoped there was a love story somewhere within its pages. I held out hope, despite growing evidence to the contrary. There is no love story here. This story will crush you, and I don’t mean that in a hyperbolic way. I mean pulse-racing-aw-hell-no-I-need-to-lie-down-for-a-while crushed."

35jennybhatt
Jul 23, 2016, 12:44 am

Magazine Name: Selected Shorts

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: The Texas Principessa

Story Author: William Goyen

Link: https://soundcloud.com/selectedshorts/passages

Excerpt:

"That ever happen to you?" Listen to the story for the rest. :)

Comments:

So, this is a story to listen to because of Doris Roberts' excellent delivery. I so enjoyed her performance and wish I could have watched her live. The story is funny, with a lot of asides, and Roberts brings it to life with the right kind of Southern accent, the little laughs and chuckles inserted at just the right spots.

The excerpt from David Rakoff's final work was surprisingly very good too -- I don't generally like stories in verse form. But, he gave this such a terrific spin. Again, timely, dry humor makes it well worth a listen.

Selected Shorts is one of my favorite story podcasts. Over time, I am going to share a few more of these.

There are actually four stories here. All wonderfully unique. Here's the blurb.

Guest host Jane Kaczmarek presents four works about love and friendship. In William Goyen's "The Texas Principessa," read by Doris Roberts, a good friend leaves a stunning legacy. Jackie Hoffman reads an excerpt about a jilted lover from David Rakoff's final work, "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish." A young couple have an idyllic day on the river in Rick Bass's "The Canoeists," read by Neil Patrick Harris. And Bill Irwin and John Lithgow read Edward Lear’s classic poem “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

36jennybhatt
Jul 27, 2016, 10:43 pm

Magazine Name: Electric Literature

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Pay Me

Story Author: Zdravka Evtimova

Link: https://electricliterature.com/pay-me-by-zdravka-evtimova-38ae3c39a636#.le841j3e...

Excerpt:

Theo watched the thin, long thread of a woman. The more he studied her face, the more he suspected she was not all there. The most amazing thing about her was her appetite. She constantly ate. They called her Maria; damn it, such a beautiful name and such a big mouth. She worked part-time at the local library, washed staircases and mowed the lawns in front of the wealthy men’s villas, using an electric mower as loud as a gun. She cleaned the important ladies’ houses, gave baths to the old women from the small town. Theo had heard rumors she was saving up to pay for her tuition at the local college.

Comments:

I post from this site more frequently than others, I think, but they do have wonderful stories. This one has a terrific introduction by Kelly Luce, so there is not much I can add. But, I will say that the fairytale-like narrative style though it is not a fairytale, the weird and fierce woman character, the visual imagery... all of these absolutely won me over.

More from Kelly Luce:

"Pay Me” is classic Zdravka Evtimova. It’s the story of Maria, a woman of insatiable appetite who works odd jobs in her small town. She seems to her boss, a man of great means but little imagination, to have come from nowhere, and slowly, he falls under the spell of this “thin, long thread of a woman” in too-large secondhand clothes. This is not a fairy tale, and yet there’s something both secret-princess and witchlike about Maria. Walt Disney would have no idea what to do with this woman. And that is precisely why I love her.

Like all great characters, Maria is a force, a type of gravity that bends the story around her. She is mysterious yet wholly satisfying, surprising at every turn to everyone but herself. She is fierce, cruel, and lends new meaning to the phrase “give zero fucks.” She is concerned with survival, with desire, with the visceral and practical, with how the world can be of use.

We need more female characters like this.

Every time I read Zdravka’s stories I reflect on the power her female characters have, how unapologetic they are, how particularly corporeal they are while also giving the impression of otherworldiness. If there’s any kind of pixie dust on them, it’s outfitted with razor teeth and talons.

Oh fuck yeah.

37jennybhatt
Editado: Ago 1, 2016, 6:09 am

Magazine Name: Scroll.in

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Draupadi

Story Author: Mahasweta Devi

Translator: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Link: http://scroll.in/article/811931/draupadi-mahasweta-devis-memorable-short-story-a...

Excerpt:

Then a billion moons pass. A billion lunar years. Opening her eyes after a million light years, Draupadi, strangely enough, sees sky and moon. Slowly the bloodied nailheads shift from her brain. Trying to move, she feels her arms and legs still tied to four posts. Something sticky under her ass and waist. Her own blood. Only the gag has been removed. Incredible thirst. In case she says ‘water’ she catches her lower lip in her teeth. She senses that her vagina is bleeding. How many came to make her?

Comments:

Mahasweta Devi passed away last week at the age of 90. She was/is a well-revered Bengali writer and social activist. Her writing, both fiction and non-fiction, was mostly about under-represented and oppressed communities -- the lower castes and their mistreatment.

This particular story is about a tribal woman who is gang-raped by the police. Let me leave it there so you can see how things unfold. Sadly, the story describes an everyday reality in many parts of India. The author has taken a situation that shows up in local/national news almost every other day. But, she has made it all the more poignant with her language and characterization.

38jennybhatt
Editado: Ago 4, 2016, 8:50 am

Magazine Name: Buffalo Almanack (Issue No. 10 – December 2015)

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: FORTY-TWO REASONS YOUR GIRLFRIEND WORKS FOR THE FBI, CIA, NSA, ICE, S.H.I.E.L.D., FRINGE DIVISION, MEN IN BLACK, OR CYLON OVERLORDS

Story Author: Haris A. Durrani

Link: http://www.buffaloalmanack.com/fortytworeasons/

Excerpt:

Reason Number One

She won’t call you Jihad.

No matter how many times you tell her, she can’t get it around her head that it doesn’t mean you’re going to strap dynamite to your balls, walk into Penn Station, and blow yourself so bad your head pops off your shoulders.

Truth is she doesn’t actually believe that bullshit, but the name does bother her. So she calls you Joe.

You don’t complain because everyone calls you Joe, including you. You don’t want to admit you’re experiencing a Black Skin/White Mask cultural inferiority complex, so you assume you’re also a spy sent to rat on your own self. You don’t know all the details yet. You’re like a character in a Philip K. Dick novel. You have no idea which you is the real you. You’re waiting for someone from the Impossible Mission Force to arrive with a secret task delivered in a knickknack that’ll self-destruct in five four three two one—BAM!—because, deep down, you really want to rock hot shades and ride fast cars and scale Burj Khalifas like Tom Cruise.

Jihad means struggle, but you’ve forgotten that.

Comments:

I stumbled onto this story while looking through this magazine's archives to see if I could submit my work to it. There is some truly excellent work here and I enjoyed this story very much. It's a form I have come across before -- the second-person point of view and the listicle format. But, Durrani makes it interesting, ironical, and insightful.

The story also won the magazine's annual Inkslinger Award for creative excellence. (http://www.buffaloalmanack.com/award/).

39jennybhatt
Ago 6, 2016, 11:17 am

Magazine Name: Matchbook

Story Genre: Literary Flash Fiction

Story Title: An Informal but Necessary Arrangement

Story Author: Shasta Grant

Link: http://www.matchbooklitmag.com/grant.html

Excerpt:

She uses stolen credit cards. Amex cards belonging to women named Janet and Linda, a Visa card embossed with Shirley King, Robert Scalan’s blue MasterCard (“my husband” she says even though there is no husband). She hands these cards over to cashiers, their feet aching, eyeing the clock for break time, lunch time, the end of the shift.

Comments:

Trying to pay more attention to flash fiction these days as I'm trying to write a couple myself.

This is by Shasta Grant, who is the 2016 SmokeLong Quarterly Kathy Fish Fellow.

What I like about it is how it's a complete story even in this compressed format. And, the images, the tension, the conflict -- everything you want in a regular story -- are all here.

I also like that the author describes how she wrote the story.

My stories usually start with a line or an image. This story started with both—I had the first couple of lines in my head, along with an image of a little girl in a red shopping cart at the checkout lane. After that, I was stuck. Nothing I wrote felt right. I had to let it sit for a month before returning to it. I wanted to include some information about those old credit card machines—the ones that made carbon copies of the front of your credit card. I spent a lot of time (too much time probably) researching them. They are called “zip zap” machines. I tried to work that name into the story but I was afraid nobody would know what it was.

40jennybhatt
Editado: Ago 15, 2016, 12:55 am

Magazine Name: Conjunctions

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Too Much for Adele

Story Author: Yannick Murphy

Link: http://conjunctions.com/webcon/murphy16.htm

Excerpt:

Adele meets Charlie at a party. He’s an American who speaks to her in his poor French, and tells her he would very much like to date her. Adele laughs when she hears him talk, and then she puts her hand around his mouth to help him form the sounds he needs to make his French understood.

He brings her to a pension where he is renting a room. He photographs her in bed after lovemaking, with her feet together up against the wall. He tells her she has beautiful legs. “Really?” she says, and she looks at her legs, wondering what Charlie sees when what she sees are the bony caps of her knees and a bug bite on the wrinkles of her Achilles heel.

Comments:

The daughter of a French diplomat and an American tourist meet in Paris and become lovers. Now, that might sound like the story of some Gene Kelly movie. Except, no. That said, it starts out almost like one of those happy-ending movies for Adele, the young protagonist. Then, as it progresses, there is no mistaking its sad trajectory and the main theme of a loss of innocence.

The plot line is, I fear, predictable enough. But, Murphy's narrative style is so beautifully clear that it gives just the right amount of detail to keep us vested in Adele's journey while avoiding sentimentality.

I also loved, particularly, the ending lines -- the kind that make you sit and let out a deep sigh after you finish reading them.

41jennybhatt
Ago 16, 2016, 11:01 am

Magazine Name: Columbia University's Frances W. Pritchett's website

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: The Shroud

Story Author: Premchand

Link: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00urdu/kafan/translation_kafan.html

Excerpt:

Ghisua fell prostrate on the ground, and said with tear-filled eyes, “Master, I’m in great trouble! Madhav’s wife passed away last night. All day she was writhing in pain, Master; we two sat by her bed till midnight. Whatever medicines we could give her, we did. But she slipped away. Now we have no one to care for us, Master – we’re devastated – our house is destroyed! I’m your slave. Now who but you will take care of her final rites? Whatever money we had at hand was used up on medicines. If the Master will show mercy, then she’ll have the proper rites. To whose door should I come except yours?”

Comments:

A classic story by one of India's well-loved Hindi authors, Premchand. This has been translated by Frances W. Pritchett.

It's a sad sort of story, really, about a father and son who are both such lazy buggers that they let the son's wife die in childbirth and then cannot be bothered to even give her a decent cremation.

Premchand's stories often dealt with such social issues. His prose was never lyrical or expansive (as Bengali literature of his time tended to be), but it was always true to the lives, patois, and dialects of the poor and urban middle-class people he wrote about. There is a strong influence of Tolstoy in his stories of peasants and village life, which this story shows. Premchand translated Tolstoy into Hindi, so it is plausible that he was an admirer.

Here are some notes on the translation: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00urdu/kafan/txt_kafan_notes.html.

More about Premchand here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premchand#Style_and_influences

42jennybhatt
Ago 21, 2016, 10:07 am

Magazine Name: Boston Book Festival; One City One Story

Story Genre: Literary/Fantastical

Story Title: The Faery Handbag

Story Author: Kelly Link

Link: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/arts-entertainment/blog/2016/08/17/boston-book-fes...

Excerpt:

The faery handbag: It’s huge and black and kind of hairy. Even when your eyes are closed, it feels black. As black as black ever gets, like if you touch it, your hand might get stuck in it, like tar—or like when you stretch out your hand at night, to turn on a light, but all you feel is darkness.

Fairies live inside it. I know what that sounds like, but it’s true.

Grandmother Zo a said it was a family heirloom. She said it was over two hundred years old. She said that when she died, I had to look after it. She said that it would be my responsibility.

Comments:

I've been wanting to feature a Kelly Link story for some time now so this is a perfect opportunity.

Link is a MA author and this story is the official choice for the Boston Book Festival’s One City One Story program.

From the above link, you can download the PDF.

Here's more:

"Every year, after the story is announced, thousands of copies are distributed around the city for residents to read. Once the festival rolls around, the author is interviewed during a special session that’s orchestrated “town-hall” style, so plenty of people can attend."

"The Faery Handbag” tells the story of a young woman whose grandmother’s handbag contains an entire village in it (as well as a few other things, depending on how you open it). There’s also a cameo by the Garment District."

Now, if you've read any of her work before, you will know that she writes weird and wonderful short stories that defy any genre classification.

This a long story with a very distinctive voice, as is the case with all of Link's stories. I'm still working my way through it so I will come back and add more comments later.

43jennybhatt
Editado: Ago 23, 2016, 11:50 pm

Magazine Name: The New Yorker

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: The Women

Story Author: William Trevor

Link: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/01/14/the-women-5

Excerpt:

Growing up in the listless nineteen-eighties, Cecilia Normanton knew her father well, her mother not at all. Mr. Normanton was handsome and tall, with steely gray hair brushed carefully every day so that it was as he wished it to be. His shirts and suits gave the impression of being part of him, as his house in Buckingham Street did, and the family business that bore his name. Only Mr. Normanton’s profound melancholy was entirely his own. It was said by people who knew him well that melancholy had not always been his governing possession, that once upon a time he had been carefree and a little wild, that the loss of his wife—not to the cruelty of an early death but to her preference for another man—had left him wounded in a way that was irreparable.

Comments:

Though William Trevor wrote novels, he is most well-known for his wonderful short stories. It is difficult to pick one from the many that he wrote. So, I'm simply starting with the last one that was published by The New Yorker in 2013.

One of the things Trevor is known for is his portrayal of women. He writes them better than, I think, any other male short story writer of his time.

This story has three main women characters and the sympathy with which he depicts just the right balance of details -- flaws and all -- shows us his writerly craft and his humanity at its best.

I particularly like, also, how he shows these two relationships -- the one between the two older women and the one between the daughter and father -- changed from this one big event in the past and this one moment in the present. It is all so beautifully done.

Trevor once said, about short stories:

I think it is the art of the glimpse. If the novel is like an intricate Renaissance painting, the short story is an impressionist painting. It should be an explosion of truth. Its strength lies in what it leaves out just as much as what it puts in, if not more. It is concerned with the total exclusion of meaninglessness. Life, on the other hand, is meaningless most of the time. The novel imitates life, where the short story is bony, and cannot wander. It is essential art.


And, you can see how he gives us that explosion of truth here, leaving out all the meaningless stuff that would have weighed the story down. We know, halfway through what is going to unfold, and yet, the way he ratchets up the tension makes us want to keep on reading.

Trevor's narrative style here might be considered old-fashioned when one reads the kinds of stories that literary magazines seem to prefer nowadays. But, this, for me, does so much more than any of those MFA-slick stories could even hope to. You want to keep on reading, to know what happens next to these three women because you experience all of their mixed-up emotions, their pain, their doubts.

Earlier this month, I listened to a re-broadcast of an interview with him on CBC's 'Writers and Company'. Worth a listen, if you get a chance. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/writersandcompany/william-trevor-on-his-un-cozy-writer-s...

I liked, particularly, one thing he said about how fiction writers are probably better at detecting BS and lies in real life because, with most of their writing, they are constantly asking themselves: "Is this believable?"

44jennybhatt
Ago 27, 2016, 12:09 am

Magazine Name: Memorious

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: White Wedding

Story Author: Nina McConigley

Link: http://memorious.org/?id=406

Excerpt:

I didn’t know she would die later that day, but I knew the end was coming. I wanted her in those last moments to tell me something profound, something that would change my life. I wanted her to be my compass—to tell me where to go.

And what I wanted the most was for her to tell me to get the hell out of Wyoming. To go to India. To live a different life.

But instead, before she slipped off into a coma and her breathing became slow and almost non-existent, she told me one thing.

“Take care of your father,” she said this slowly, her eyes opening and closing.

And when you came right down to it, it was the most Indian thing she could say. Staying was the most Indian thing I could do.

Comments:

This is not a recently-published story. Sometimes, I like to look up an author from my TBR list. Sometimes, I like to dive into a magazine's archives to find gems I might have missed earlier. This story meets both of those criteria.

Nina McConigley showed up on my radar when her short story collection, Cowboys and East Indians was published and then won the 2014 PEN Open Book Award. She was touted by some as the next Jhumpa Lahiri, though hers is a different landscape and demographic of East Indians from Lahiri's typical East Coast intellectuals. McConigley's voice and style are a bit different too.

There are many things I love about this story. First, it takes me back to my times driving through and spending time in the American West. I miss those old mountains too. Then, there's the intimate, wryly humorous first-person voice telling a story about her sister. And, there's an Indian wedding with a white groom -- always interesting to see how those turn out as each is unique in its own way.

I held off a while reading this story after scanning it the first time as it involves a daughter dealing with her mother's death. My mother passed away in 2014 and it was so sudden that we, the family, did not get to say goodbye, did not get to think even about the fact of her not being with us someday. It is still not easy.

In the end, though, the story is about belonging -- or, at least, trying to figure out where and how to belong. And, I love, most of all, the ending but I will not spoil it for you. Settle in and enjoy the read.

45jennybhatt
Ago 30, 2016, 5:19 am

Magazine Name: Granta

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: The Weak Spot

Story Author: Sophie Mackintosh

Link: https://granta.com/the-weak-spot/

Excerpt:

Murder class was the new thing, but, of course, they didn’t call it that. They called it Specialized Life Skills for Girls and it happened on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Last year it was in the afternoons, but someone threw up everywhere when they showed the first video, the one titled Decapitation by Bear Trap! Mrs Jones made her clean it up in front of everyone and shifted class to before lunch.

Comments:

This is a weird and wonderful story -- a variation of Hunger Games, even. Here, girls are trained in survival and self-defense skills. The training, however, involves catching and killing a man and wearing one of his teeth around one's neck like a talisman, which then serves as a warning to other potential male molesters/assaulters.

The narrator, reluctant at first, finds her attitude evolving as things move forward. And, the ending is, well, you should just read the whole thing for the satisfaction of that ending.

The story was published in Granta Online as part of their 'Legacies of Love' themed issue: https://granta.com/issues/granta-136-legacies-love/.

46jennybhatt
Set 5, 2016, 10:36 am

Magazine Name: Bath Flash Fiction Award 2016

Story Genre: Literary

Story Title: Terra Incognita

Story Author: Sharon Telfer

Link: http://bathflashfictionaward.com/2016/06/sharon-telfer-june-2016-first-prize/

Excerpt:

They spill their stories before the solid ground can make them fast. They tell of days when the sun never sets or never rises, birds that swim but cannot fly, great fish that sing, of smoking mountains, shrieking ice, forests where men become trees, one-footed men, dog-headed men, waves as high as cathedral bells, seas as still as death. They have sailed so far they have gazed at unfamiliar stars and wondered how they are to find their way back.

Comments:

So, I'm making September my flash fiction month. This is a genre I have not read much of. So, I'm scouring online for the best out there -- award-winners and such.

The Bath Flash Fiction Award is an international one and pretty respectable. This is from the 2016 contest judge, Robert Vaughan:

"My favorite flash fiction pieces are those that stop my heart from beating or make me gasp! Unusual characters that grab you, setting details that seem fitting, sensory touches that are illuminating. A certain amount of tension to hold interest, and the element of surprise. Also a balance of white space- what is “left out” of the piece is as important as what remains on the page. Typically, there is a haunting or lasting element that stays with me beyond the brevity of the work."

Rest of his interview here: http://bathflashfictionaward.com/2016/06/robert-vaughan-october-2016-flash-award...

What I love about this winning flash piece is the amount of sensory detail crammed into so few words. Like this single sentence, which takes my breath away because it says so much: "Their salty eyes, narrowed as horizons, navigate the billows of her dress, each swell and dip, seeking always somewhere to make landfall, claim dominion."

The story is about a father and daughter, who is the narrator, who are mapmakers. The time period is some age-old distant past when people relied on sailors' stories and descriptions to make maps. You would have to have a highly vivid imagination to do so, of course, and that comes across so beautifully in the narrator's voice.

This is the kind of story you want to read again and again because of its rich density of language -- it's almost prose poetry, really.

47jennybhatt
Set 6, 2016, 5:29 am

Magazine Name: The American Scholar

Story Genre: Literary Flash Fiction

Story Title: Boy

Story Author: Bret Anthony Johnston

Link: https://theamericanscholar.org/boy/#.V86JFzt_Mtp

Excerpt:

Twist your fist when you connect and tear the other man’s skin; aim for the bridge of his nose, his throat; if there’s something heavy to swing–a pipe or board–pick it up before he does and lay him out; drive a truck with a manual transmission; carry a knife, sharpen the blade on wet stone; when buying cedar for a fence, look for knots and warps in the wood; when your son grabs an asp on a tallow limb, take the chewing tobacco from your mouth and press it to the sting; open doors for women and pay them compliments as they pass; make eye contact like a man and not like the coward you’re so bent on becoming;

Comments:

Jamaica Kincaid's story 'Girl' (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1978/06/26/girl) has been anthologized so often and is taught in many English and writing classes. Her story is a long single sentence story of instruction and admonishment to a young girl from her mother. In particular, it is about telling the daughter on how to be a girl, and what is expected of her.

Johnston is the director of the Creative Writing program at Harvard University. His response story is also a single-sentence instruction and admonishment. And, like Kincaid, he gives us such arresting visuals and we can almost see the entire thing unfolding before us like movie scenes.

Of course, both stories are more statements about how our society/culture perceives women and men and prescribes particular gender-specific behaviors.

48jennybhatt
Set 7, 2016, 9:23 am

Magazine Name: Route Nine Lit Mag

Story Genre: Literary Flash Fiction

Story Title: Skin

Story Author: Sejal Shah

Link: http://route9litmag.com/post/80855012929/skin

Excerpt:

This is what the white boys say: your hair. Your skin. This is what the black boys say: we together, together. This is what the Asians say: you date out too, I can tell. This is what the Jamaican boys say: I never liked you Indians. This is what the desis say: Get out of Massachusetts. Move to New York.

This is what the white boys say: but we would have brown children. And: color doesn’t matter. And: why are you so obsessed with it. We’re all Americans, right? How are we that different. My parents would love you. My older brother would want to go out with you. Your skin is your best feature.

Comments:

So, I discovered Sejal Shah's work through a list of favorite flash fiction by Amber Sparks -- http://velamag.com/amber-sparkss-five-flash-fiction-writers/. I have yet to read through the rest of Sparks' recommendations but this caught my eye because, of course, I identify with it.

Shah (https://sejal-shah.com) is a writer and a creative writing teacher. The narrator of her story here could be any brown/desi girl/woman living in the US. There are so many truths densely packed into this brief missive that you really have to read it a couple of times and then sit with it to fully absorb it all -- particularly so if you happen to belong to the narrator's ethnicity.

So, the story shows how a female narrator's identification/comprehension of her own ethnicity changes kaleidoscopically, depending on the ethnicity of the male observer. Her sense of self-identity is not a firm, grounded thing but a forever-shifting, ephemeral, shape-searching thing. What is also eye-opening is that most of the observations the narrator relates from those male observers are the kinds of everyday, banal statements that people make in passing, and not intended as racist slurs. Yet, we come to see, soon enough, how they leave lasting impacts. Shah does a wonderful job in staying neutral as she unfolds the narrative, not pointing the finger at anyone at all -- simply laying bare these little, hard-hitting truths of daily life.

49jennybhatt
Editado: Set 9, 2016, 2:15 am

Magazine Name: Fiction Southeast, The Ernest Hemingway Flash Fiction Prize 2015

Story Genre: Literary Flash Fiction

Story Title: The Second Most Important Explosion of 1986

Story Author: Matthew K Thibeault

Link: http://fictionsoutheast.org/the-second-most-important-explosion-of-1986/

Excerpt:

Austin, TX USA 01/28/86: 10:25 AM (CDT)

Time does seem to pass. The world unfolds not in moments but in frames, images compressed into life. A live broadcast is a collective consciousness, a nationwide longing that pulls us into the future. It’s a school day, and televisions have been rolled into darkened classrooms just for this.

She likes to leave the TV on while she’s in the kitchen, opening cabinets and drawers and running water over vegetables. Space Shuttle Challenger is minutes from its tenth launch. It’s an intimation, or a slight change in frequency that tells her to look over at the screen.

There it sits—stands, vertical—like a child’s toy strapped to a huge metal erection. That’s how it looks to her. Crude. The thing itself is a symbol, a deeply American excess and symmetry. It is a tower. There’s nothing sleek about it. Nothing shines. The external tank is the colour of rust.

Comments:

Hemingway, in his time, was not known as a "flash fiction" writer, necessarily. But, a lot of his short stories are under the 1000-1500 word limit and, therefore classify as flash. This magazine has been running their flash fiction award in his name for some time now (http://fictionsoutheast.org/ernest-hemingway-flash-fiction-award/). And, this story won the prize in 2015.

There is a lot to like about it. First, it is set around a historical event: the US Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. Then, we get the alternating viewpoints of two teachers -- both had applied among the thousands to be selected to join the journey. However, one was chosen and the other was not. So, as the moments of the shuttle's take-off unfold, we are inside the minds of both women, understanding their conflicted thoughts and their lives. One, of course, does not survive.

The prose and plot are both simple but the way the writer ratchets up the tension and keeps us reading to the end is what counts.

As for Hemingway's flash stories, his collection, 'In Our Time' is a good one. I don't know that the legend/myth of him having written "Classified: Baby Goods. For sale, baby shoes, never worn." as his best micro-fiction is true. Snopes says false: http://www.snopes.com/language/literary/babyshoes.asp.

50jennybhatt
Set 11, 2016, 9:12 am

Magazine Name: Words Without Borders

Story Genre: Literary Flash Fiction

Story Title: Professional

Story Author: Ana María Shua; Translator: Steven J. Stewart

Link: http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/article/professional

Excerpt:

Normal people fantasize a lot about our work, which is really pretty routine and not at all like what you see in the movies. Our first jobs are perhaps the most memorable. Contrary to popular belief, those of us who are experienced refuse jobs that are uncomfortable, difficult, or unpleasant. These fall, naturally, to the beginners. You can always find a needy kid who’s willing to strangle an old man for a hundred dollars.

I was just a beginner when I sat down in front of my first client, Mrs. Mercedes de Ulloa. I was nervous. Sure, I’d killed before, but always during armed robberies or gang fights. I had one important advantage getting into the profession: I’d never been caught.

Comments:

Ana María Shua has earned a prominent place in contemporary Argentine fiction with the publication of over forty books in nearly every literary genre: novels, short stories, short short stories, poetry, theater, childrens fiction, books of humor and Jewish folklore, film scripts, and essays.

Steven J. Stewart was awarded a 2005 Literature Fellowship for Translation by the National Endowment for the Arts.

This story has one of those twist endings that I'm not overly fond of but, here, it works perfectly and satisfying well. What I also like about this one is that it is a complete story with a proper beginning, middle, and end. And, that is very tricky to do in just so many words. Besides all that, we have a distinctive narrator and tight dialogue that make this a rather enjoyable read.

51jennybhatt
Set 13, 2016, 8:51 am

Magazine Name: Vestal Review

Story Genre: Literary Flash Fiction

Story Title: Dorian Gray

Story Author: Hugh Behm-Steinberg

Link: http://www.vestalreview.org (I might have to return to update the link when the story falls off their front page. For now, you can scroll further down the front page for the story.)

Excerpt:

Dorian Gray likes his selfie, but not enough to share it with anyone. It just needs a few tweaks, so he opens it up in the image processing software he has on his machine and goes to work.

It gets tighter, but there’s always something else that can be fixed, some time-consuming process. Sometimes when he fixes the light in the background the color goes wrong, or when he adjusts the color there’s something else that goes off. The more he works on it, the more work there’s left to do.

Comments:

I got to know Hugh Behm-Steinberg after Eleven Eleven Journal, where he is the Faculty Editor, accepted one of my stories. So, I've been following his flash fiction through this summer. And, while he won the 2015 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose with a rather funny, surreal story about Taylor Swift (http://gulfcoastmag.org/journal/28.2-summer/fall-2016/2015-barthelme-prize-winner-taylor-swift/), this version of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray is my favorite so far.

I like most, of course, the switching of a painting with a selfie. And, how, today's Dorian Gray is so obsessed with making his selfie better that, the outcome is the opposite of what happens in the original -- I won't spoil it for you, of course.

52jennybhatt
Set 16, 2016, 8:45 am

Magazine Name: Conjunctions

Story Genre: Literary Flash Fiction

Story Title: Five Stories

Story Author: Lydia Davis

Link: http://www.conjunctions.com/archives/c24-ld.htm

Excerpt:

FEAR

Nearly every morning, a certain woman in our community comes running out of her house with her face white and her overcoat flapping wildly. She cries out, "Emergency, emergency," and one of us runs to her and holds her until her fears are calmed. We know she is making it up; nothing has really happened to her. But we understand, because there is hardly one of us who has not been moved at some time to do just what she has done, and every time, it has taken all our strength, and even the strength of our friends and families too, to quiet us.

Comments:

Lydia Davis is one of the reigning queens of flash fiction. Though, these five stories are really, technically speaking, micro-fiction. But, OK. It's Lydia Davis.

This particular one is my favorite out of the five because it gives us a complete moment. And, it's almost like a prose poem with its precision and vivid imagery and that beautiful truth/insight at the end. You want to read it over again because it's so simple, yet powerful.

There's plenty more of Davis' stuff out there. But, this is the most freely accessible I could find. If you have not read any of her work, start with Can't and Won't, an excellent collection.

53jennybhatt
Editado: Set 30, 2016, 4:31 am

Magazine Name: Genius (also a link to Amy Hempel reading the story)

Story Genre: Literary Flash Fiction

Story Title: Mother

Story Author: Grace Paley

Link: http://genius.com/Grace-paley-mother-annotated (text)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPbmQxMeOmM (Amy Hempel reading the story; calling Grace Paley her literary mother)

Excerpt:

One day I was listening to the AM radio. I heard a song: "Oh, I Long to See My Mother in the Doorway." By God! I said, I understand that song. I have often longed to see my mother in the doorway. As a matter of fact, she did stand frequently in various doorways looking at me. She stood one day, just so, at the front door, the darkness of the hallway behind her. It was New Year's Day. She said sadly, If you come home at 4 a.m. when you're seventeen, what time will you come home when you're twenty? She asked this question without humor or meanness. She had begun her worried preparations for death. She would not be present, she thought, when I was twenty. So she wondered.

Comments:

Grace Paley is one of my all-time favorite short story writers. For one, she's one of those writers who can pack a lot into less and still give us many layers. She also manages to give her characters such unique voices that, when reading, you can actually hear them speaking to you. Not an easy feat at all.

This story is bittersweet for me because it reminds me of having lost my own mother. It makes me want to see my mother standing in doorways again and talking to me, even if she's only nagging about something or repeating a story she has told all of us many times before.

Apparently, Paley wrote this story with the specific intention of ending with "Then she died." And, that is the ending, sorry to give it away. But, it will not ruin your experience of reading this, I promise you, because there is almost an entire novel in these few words.

54jennybhatt
Set 26, 2016, 12:28 am

Magazine Name: World Literature Today

Story Genre: Literary Flash Fiction

Story Title: Continuity of Hell

Story Author: Andres Neuman; translated by George Henson

Link: http://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/2012/september/continuity-hell-andres-neuman

Excerpt:

I detested going to the hospital, feigning a serenity that I didn’t have, squeezing into the gigantic elevator boxes, breathing that air which was too clean—ammoniac, unreal, disinfectant—until arriving at the fifth floor. Walking between the beds of sick people as if in a minefield—don’t touch me, don’t let death touch me—and then Hello, dad, how’s everything, everything okay?, you rest. I hated going to the hospital, although I did like descending into the garage and slowly maneuvering my white Opel. Sinking into the asphalt bowels gave me a strange sense of calm. I’d turn on the car’s headlights, and that gray, red, and yellow interior, the symmetry of the walls and columns, became a dependable realm with its safe rules and oneiric silence (do we dream sounds?).

Comments:

Another lovely piece of flash fiction with many layers and themes. We have a man trying to deal with his father's hospitalization. And, rather than a straightforward monologue about death, mortality, fatherhood, etc., we get his impressions of his visit to the hospital, particularly his time spent in the underground garage.

It is clear, from both the title and the story, that the garage represents a kind of hell. Yet, it is the sort of hell that the narrator seems to want to retreat to and take comfort in during the father's illness.

The ending is somewhat unexpected, yet completely satisfying.

55jennybhatt
Set 30, 2016, 4:30 am

Magazine Name: Excerpt from Sudden Flash Youth

Story Genre: Literary Flash Fiction

Story Title: 'Currents'; 'What Happened During the Ice Storm'; 'Thud'

Story Author: Hannah Bottomy Voskuil; Jim Heynen; Naomi Shihab Nye

Link: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/tip-sheet/article/4979...

Excerpt:

There are many things Rainey does not understand: war, and running with the bulls, for two examples. Why get any­where near herds of bulls and irritate them in the first place? Why is this popular? She would prefer to be liked by bulls—to meet them in a placid zone and stare at one another, trade some secrets, if possible.

She has no desire to binge-drink or congregate with believers. The pious confidence of people who think they know “the truth” repels her. If only one could slap them with mysteries....

She pictures herself on the edge of any scene.

Scenes need fringe observers—people to take notes and tell what you did later.

If you can find them.

Comments:

Let's end the month with a collection of 3 coming-of-age flash stories from a book length collection by Persea Books.

Edited by Christine Perkins-Hazuka, Tom Hazuka, and Mark Budman, there are 65 stories here of no more than 1000 words from authors like Steve Almond, Meg Kearny, Dave Eggers, Naomi Shihab Nye, et al.

I have not got the book. But, these 3 stories are a good teaser.

'Currents' by Hannah Bottomy Voskull is such a heartbreakingly beautiful story told in reverse. We get one scene after another, each presented with cinematic perfection. Let me not say more to avoid spoilers.

'What Happened During the Ice Storm' by Jim Heynen is another visually-arresting story. The setting is that of snow and ice and winter. And, yet, the ending is as warm as a lovely summer's day. Again, I will avoid spoilers.

'Thud' by Naomi Shihab Nye (whose poetry I love) is the excerpt I have shared here. A teenage girl is trying to come to grips with a parent's death. This is such a complete, well-told story and it avoids any sign of maudlin or sentimentality, both of which would have been easy traps to fall into. Yet, Nye's perfection with prose is such that our hearts ache for this young girl and her confusion, her thoughts about how she might make that confusion disappear.

56jennybhatt
Out 11, 2016, 7:21 am

Magazine Name: Tor.com

Story Genre: Horror/Speculative

Story Title: The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn

Story Author: Usman Malik

Link: http://www.tor.com/2015/04/22/the-pauper-prince-and-the-eucalyptus-jinn-usman-ma...

Excerpt:

For fifteen years my grandfather lived next door to the Mughal princess Zeenat Begum. The princess ran a tea stall outside the walled city of Old Lahore in the shade of an ancient eucalyptus. Dozens of children from Bhati Model School rushed screaming down muddy lanes to gather at her shop, which was really just a roadside counter with a tin roof and a smattering of chairs and a table. On winter afternoons it was her steaming cardamom-and-honey tea the kids wanted; in summer it was the chilled Rooh Afza.

As Gramps talked, he smacked his lips and licked his fingers, remembering the sweet rosewater sharbat. He told me that the princess was so poor she had to recycle tea leaves and sharbat residue. Not from customers, of course, but from her own boiling pans—although who really knew, he said, and winked.

Comments:

I wanted to do a month of horror/speculative/fantasy works and got a late start because this is not a genre I normally read. Still, better late than never.

Also, this first posting is a bit of a cheat as it's really more a novella. Still, it is a delicious yarn of a tale by a Pakistani writer. And, it reminds me of long, convoluted stories that my mother and her father often narrated. Those tales were, in turn, from their parents, and each generation had filled in gaps with their own embellishments.

This particular story also uses the story-within-a-story technique effectively, rather like A Thousand and One Arabian Nights.

What I love also is the descriptive bits, but I won't ruin it for you. Just settle back and savor this one -- old-fashioned storytelling at its best.

57jennybhatt
Out 13, 2016, 8:47 am

Magazine Name: Nightmare

Story Genre: Horror

Story Title: Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers

Story Author: Alyssa Wong

Link: http://www.nightmare-magazine.com/fiction/hungry-daughters-of-starving-mothers/

Excerpt:

As my date—Harvey? Harvard?—brags about his alma mater and Manhattan penthouse, I take a bite of overpriced kale and watch his ugly thoughts swirl overhead. It’s hard to pay attention to him with my stomach growling and my body ajitter, for all he’s easy on the eyes. Harvey doesn’t look much older than I am, but his thoughts, covered in spines and centipede feet, glisten with ancient grudges and carry an entitled, Ivy League stink.

“My apartment has the most amazing view of the city,” he’s saying, his thoughts sliding long over each other like dark, bristling snakes. Each one is as thick around as his Rolex-draped wrist. “I just installed a Jacuzzi along the west wall so that I can watch the sun set while I relax after getting back from the gym.”

I nod, half-listening to the words coming out of his mouth. I’m much more interested in the ones hissing through the teeth of the thoughts above him.

Comments:

This story is one of the finalists in the 2015 Shirley Jackson Awards (http://www.shirleyjacksonawards.org/award-winners/2015-shirley-jackson-awards-winners/).

The narrator and protagonist here can read thoughts. And the story just gets progressively weird from that seemingly tame premise. I say "tame" because this "reading minds" plot point is now rather common in non-realist genres. But, Wong makes it interesting and horrifying enough for us to want to read till the end.

The vivid descriptions of these thoughts and what they do are quite amazing. Thoughts can be deadly -- this story shows how.

58jennybhatt
Out 17, 2016, 10:28 am

Magazine Name: NPR

Story Genre: Horror

Story Title: A Face in the Night

Story Author: Ruskin Bond

Link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114361005

Excerpt:

Mr. Oliver, an Anglo-Indian teacher, was returning to his school late one night on the outskirts of the hill station of Shimla. The school was conducted on English public school lines and the boys - most of them from well-to-do Indian families - wore blazers, caps and ties. "Life" magazine, in a feature on India, had once called this school the Eton of the East.

Mr. Oliver had been teaching in this school for several years. He's no longer there. The Shimla Bazaar, with its cinemas and restaurants, was about two miles from the school; and Mr. Oliver, a bachelor, usually strolled into the town in the evening returning after dark, when he would take short cut through a pine forest.

Comments:

Ruskin Bond is one of India's celebrated short story writers. This particular story is not necessarily his best horror story but it's fun to listen to in this audio version.

It's one of those classic horror stories that you've likely heard some version of if you've been camping and sat around a fire late at night with your fellow campers. You know what's coming and you're still hooked.

Here's an excellent review of his A Season of Ghosts: http://www.people.virginia.edu/~pm9k/Writings/RBond/ghost99tg.html

He also edited the Penguin Book of Indian Ghost Stories, which has 21 stories from authors like Kipling to Ray and stories dating back to British India. The introduction, where Bond describes seeing the ghost of Kipling at a book launch party, is well worth the price of the book. And, Bond's own story, 'Topaz', at the end is one of the best there.

59jennybhatt
Out 19, 2016, 1:40 am

Magazine Name: McSweeney's Internet Tendency

Story Genre: Horror

Story Title: I Can See Right Through You

Story Author: Kelly Link

Link: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/pages/i-can-see-right-through-you

Excerpt:

When the sex tape happened and things went south with Fawn, the demon lover did what he always did. He went to cry on Meggie’s shoulder. Girls like Fawn came and went, but Meggie would always be there. Him and Meggie. It was the talisman you kept in your pocket. The one you couldn’t lose.

Two monsters can kiss in a movie. One old friend can go to see another old friend and be sure of his welcome: so here is the demon lover in a rental car. An hour into the drive, he opens the window, tosses out his cell phone. There is no one he wants to talk to except for Meggie.

Comments:

Hard to do a month of horror stories without including some of my ongoing favorites like Kelly Link, even though I've featured her work before.

More of her free reads online here: http://kellylink.net/read-me

Contemporary horror, with references to social media and popular culture, is interesting because there are many layers and you almost need a couple of rereads to get them all. Even then, I'm not sure I caught all of them. Plus, this is a long short story, so you have to take your time. That said, as with all of Link's stories, it is immensely satisfying -- in the many ways that a good story can be.

60jennybhatt
Out 22, 2016, 10:35 am

Magazine Name: Granta

Story Genre: Horror

Story Title: Cousins

Story Author: Angela Carter

Link: https://granta.com/granta-reads-angela-carter/

Excerpt:

The people who live in its shadow have no relation to the mountain itself other than one of use, though you could say that the mountain also uses them, uses them up, exhausts not only their energies, their work, but also their imaginations. The vastness of their world oppresses them; their servitude to the elements kills them.

A girl from a small village on the lower slope of the mountain married a man who lived by himself on the far side of a certain river. She was from a fairly well-off family, he was dirt poor, he had an acre or two of stones, that was his farm, lonely beyond belief. He got her in the family way and she went off with him one early summer. They thought, when her time was near, she’d go to her widowed mother in the village for her confinement but the equinoctial storms came, thunder, lightning, and she went into labour. Since she could not go to her mother, her man went to fetch her mother to her. If the river had not swollen twice its size, due to the rain, and been washing down earth and boulders, he’d have crossed it easily but he drowned, somebody hooked his corpse out miles down, weeks later, he’d travelled further in death than he’d ever done living.

Comments:

We cannot do a horror month without Angela Carter, one of my favorites. This is from Granta's archives and read by Josie Mitchell.

‘Cousins’ was later featured in Carter’s seminal Black Venus story collection with the title ‘Peter and the Wolf’, and forms part of her famous ‘wolf quartet’.

61jennybhatt
Out 24, 2016, 8:39 am

Magazine Name: The Atlantic

Story Genre: Horror

Story Title: Herman Wouk Is Still Alive

Story Author: Stephen King

Link: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/05/herman-wouk-is-still-alive/3...

Excerpt:

Brenda should be happy. The kids are quiet, the road stretches ahead of her like an airport runway, she's behind the wheel of a brand-new van. The speedometer reads 70. Nonetheless, that grayness has begun to creep over her again. The van isn't hers, after all. She'll have to give it back. A foolish expense, really, because what's at the far end of this trip, up in Mars Hill? She looks at her old friend. Jasmine is looking back at her. The van, now doing almost a hundred miles an hour, begins to drift. Jasmine gives a small nod. Brenda nods back. Then she pushes down harder with her foot, trying to find the van's carpeted floor.

Comments:

The reigning king of horror: Stephen King. This story won the 2011 Bram Stoker Award. It is about 11 lives crashing together, literally. And, the tension ratchets up as only Stephen King can make it.

This is not a ghost story. But, nonetheless, more terrifying for it.

King's language is cinematic, immediate, and pulls us in even when we're cringing about what he's showing and telling. And that's how it should be.

62jennybhatt
Editado: Nov 6, 2016, 12:52 am

Magazine Name: Sundance Institute

Story Genre: Short Film, Drama

Story Title: Masterchef

Story Author: Ritesh Batra (writer and director)

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VP6hHPfkGU

Excerpt:

https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2014/04/28/masterchef-sundance-gates-foundation/

"1 of 5 films created for an innovative awareness campaign put together by the Sundance Institute in conjunction with the Gates Foundation, Masterchef is a simple but elegant story of poverty, gumption and the power of dreams.

Poor and living out on the streets, young Akhil is a primary earner for his family, spending his days as a shoeshine boy. The director, Ritesh Batra, recently celebrated for his feature film The Lunchbox, does not linger on the poverty or play it up for pathos, but instead celebrates the young character’s fortitude.

. . .

The project, the Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge, is a mixture of commissioned work and a film contest, dedicated to “inspire discussion, shift perception and dismiss stereotypes of poverty and hunger.” The only narrative work in this initial batch of 5, Batra’s work accomplishes this mission quite well in its depiction of Akhil, but also cleverly comments on the transformative power of media in general. Akhil’s access to TV, his ability to see the Masterchef in the storefront window, serves as an animating force for his dream, and thus the film serves as a powerful confirmation of the entire project’s mission in crafting media to address these subjects."

Comments:

So, I'm going to do short films this month. And, probably, mostly by Indian or Indian origin writers/directors. We'll see. I'll try to pick award winners. Then again, maybe not.

Batra is famous for 'The Lunchbox', of course. And, that is a terrific movie too. But, this short gives more feels, I think.

It is an 8-minute short drama with a rather abrupt ending. Still, as I've said elsewhere before, for me, endings are really about beginnings. I like stories that end with the promise of some new beginning, which this one kinda does. What I also like about it is that Batra has not sentimentalized the story. This could have gone, so easily, the way of Slumdog Millionaire. I'm glad that it did not.

63jennybhatt
Nov 7, 2016, 3:39 am

Magazine Name: Millenium Development Goals (UN Initiative)

Story Genre: Short Film, Drama

Story Title: How Can It Be

Story Author: Rashida Mustafa and Suketu Mehta

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IldrkR4NDGo

Excerpt:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8_(2008_film)

Part of an anthology of 8 short films made in 2008 on the 8 millenium development goals. This film focused on the goal of "Promote gender equality and empower women."

Comments:

Mira Nair is known to many due to her award-winning movies like Salaam Bombay and, most recently, Queen of Katwe.

This short film is an interesting interpretation of the above goal because it shows a mother leaving her husband and son to go be the second wife of her married lover. It's subversive and not at all what we might consider when we think of gender equality or women's empowerment. Yet, that subversiveness itself is the message, right? That a woman has that power to choose to leave, just as a man might do so easily. And that this protagonist would still choose to do this, knowing all that it would entail for her, is where her empowerment comes in.

It's unsettling, though, to talk about women's empowerment in such terms. And that's what Nair wanted, I suppose, to open up exactly that dialogue.

Anyway, one thing I'm finding, as I try to research short films written/directed by Indians or people of Indian origin is that there are very few women to be found in this genre. Let's hope there are more out there.

64jennybhatt
Nov 8, 2016, 9:13 am

Magazine Name: 60th National Film Award (Best Short Film on Family Values)

Story Genre: Short Film, Drama

Story Title: Afterglow

Story Author: Kaushal Oza, Writer and Director

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f2ErhTh7QM

Excerpt:

Written and Directed by Kaushal Oza, "Afterglow" is a tragi-comic piece about a Parsi widow who has just lost her husband and the condolence visitors who come in to offer their mock sympathy. It won the National Award for the Best Short Film on Family Values at the 60th edition of the Awards. It has also won 8 other Best Film Awards and has been screened at various international film festivals around the world. It was part of a selection of the best Indian short films of the past decade at the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival in France in 2013.

Comments:

A bit disconcrting that they hand out awards for "family values" films. Because, really, why does the Indian government get to decide what these family values might be?

That aside, this is a wonderfully written, directed, and acted film. It balances the tragedy and the comedy of the death of a long-time spouse, the well-meaning friends and family members who show up with their various tics and well-meaning advice. If anything, Oza appears to be thumbing his nose at the perceptions of "family values" that these visitors seem to be demonstrating.

I love, also, the actress who plays the widow -- her facial expressions are perfectly timed so that she doesn't really have to say much in the present-time scenes. Most of her talking is reserved for the flashback scenes.

65jennybhatt
Nov 16, 2016, 11:01 am

Magazine Name: Grand Jury Prize for Short Filmmaking, Indian Film Festival of LA

Story Genre: Short Film

Story Title: Dandekar Makes a Sandwich

Story Author: Leena Pandharkar, Writer-Director

Link: https://vimeo.com/153012616

Excerpt:

"Armed with plenty of time on his hands, RK Dandekar, a curmudgeonly retiree with a picky palate, will stop at nothing to find just the right ingredients for the perfect sandwich. A heartfelt, offbeat tale about the perks of aging."

This short film is the prequel to a longer, feature-length movie, 'Days With Dandekar'. http://dayswithdandekar.com. It "depicts the emotional journey of a lonely man seeking deeper meaning, purpose, and connection in his life. RK Dandekar is a 65-year-old Indian immigrant who built his American dream from the ground up, yielding the comfortable life he always wanted – a job he enjoys, successful daughters, and a wife he admires.

But when his company suddenly forces him into early retirement, he must confront a frightening question: what do I do now? RK turns to his family, wanting to be close, to find a connection, only to find that they don’t have time for him. So he wanders around town in his beloved Volvo, getting free samples at the local stores. Thinking a new car will cheer up their father, RK’s daughters trade in his cherished Volvo. RK is devastated, and rushes to the used car salesman to get it back, only to find that it’s been sold.

Panicked, RK races all over town searching for the car, posting flyers, trying to find any leads he can, determined to get it back. As he searches, he is confronted by moments from his past where he wasn’t always the kind, jolly man he sees himself as today, especially to his wife. Through his journey, he comes to realize that he can’t relive the past, he can only move forward. Days with Dandekar is a story of redemption and hope, and redefining one’s self when all seems lost."

Comments:

Leena Pendharkar is among the new breed of Indian-American film-makers in the US (http://leenap.com/?page_id=49).

So, what I like about this one is that, firstly, we have a rare kind of protagonist -- the "65-year-old Indian immigrant who built his American dream." Then, we get to see him doing something you are not likely to see Indian immigrants of that generation do -- being a royal pain in a supermarket with the deli lady. And, finally, we get to see him doing something even more unexpected. These are all the things I liked about the short film. Have yet to watch the full-length feature, so I will reserve my judgement, but the above synopsis is definitely interesting.

Also, in case the actor appears familiar to you as he did to me, here's some background about him: "Brian George, Actor, Was born in Israel, the youngest of four children. His parents were Middle-eastern Jews who, until their early 30s, lived in India and spoke only English (but with really good Indian accents)... In 1986, Brian moved to Los Angeles and since then has worked non-stop, in sit-coms Seinfeld, Big Bang Theory, dramas Star Trek, Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland film Austin Powers, Keeping the Faith, Horrible Bosses, cartoons Animaniacs, Batman, Star Wars Clone Wars, the web Burning Love and on stage, Stuff Happens, Yes, Prime Minister."

66jennybhatt
Nov 18, 2016, 10:34 pm

Magazine Name: N/A

Story Genre: Short Film Drama

Story Title: Taandav

Story Author: Devashish Makhija

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgO1HvdcZl8

Excerpt:

Head constable Tambe isn’t having the best of days.

His wife slams doors in his face.

His little daughter won’t speak to him.

His only friends, havaldaars Sawant and Shilwant, feel cheated by him.

And to make matters worse, he’s been given nightlong Ganpati visarjan bandobast duty. (This is a pretty big annual Hindu festival.)

The lights are blinding.
The drums are deafening.
Explosions.
Clanging.
Flashing.
Thrashing.
His senses are being attacked from every which way.
Every screaming face seems to be mocking him tonight.

His blood…
slowly…
rises…
to a…
boil…
Until he snaps, plunges into the crowd, pulls his gun out, and as jaws drop around him…
he unleashes a #TAANDAV!

Comments:

The life of a Mumbai cop is not the easiest. Especially when movies and TV have completely destroyed their image through caricatures. Yes, they are overworked, underpaid, often made to play along with the nexus between the corrupt politician and businessman. And, in a big city like Mumbai, which never sleeps, is teeming with immigrants from all parts of the world, and has major infrastructure problems, things are, let's just say, always interesting.

What I like about this one is how there is no romanticization and no overly-gritty realism. It's a simple slice of life but done in a way that makes you want to keep watching. A lot of this has to do with the acting by Manoj Bajpai and the direction by Devashish Makhija.

The scenes of Ganeshotsav celebraion, I have to say, are tame compared to what they really are -- a logistical, crime-ridden nightmare for cops all over India. That said, I can see why the director chose tight camera shots -- first, it keeps the cost down and second, it builds more tension to lead up to the final scenes.

67jennybhatt
Editado: Jan 5, 2017, 4:01 am

Magazine Name: N/A

Story Genre: Short Film, Drama

Story Title: Fearless

Story Author: Nishanthi Evani, Writer and Director

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZxYZ8lrAJw

Excerpt:

http://www.shortfilmwindow.com/fearless/

"Fearless is an important film about how pre-concieved notions warp your perception of a situation. The humanity of a person is leeched away and they become mirrors for your fears, rage and failure of empathy.

A photographer, upper-middle class & educated, is trapped in a small space with a man who tries to protect her when a riot starts. She begins to question the man's motives. And when a small mis-communication fires up, she begins to fear for her life and events take a more violent turn.

There is a very interesting moment in the film, when the bustling area the women finds herself in is suddenly deserted and quiet after a riot starts. The photographer and her protector rush away from the noise of the the unseen rampage, until they find themselves in a small toilet. Slowly you realize that the women brought the outside in with her. The casting of the film is perfect. Shaanti, plays her part to perfection and Pramod Sanghi does a brilliant job of representing the underrepresented, and bringing multiple shades to the character of the male protagonist.

Produced by Rockstar Studios, the film is a very earnest and honest, and deserves the widest audience possible."

Comments:

So, apparently, this short film is based on an event from Evani's own life. http://www.deccanchronicle.com/150721/lifestyle-booksart/article/‘every-woman-...

I have to admit, though I admire the realism and the truthiness of this story, I did not care much for the acting of the two characters. I wish there had been more subtlety and nuance in both the storytelling and the acting.

That said, it shines a spotlight on a very real and universal problem of prejudices and preconceived notions across class divides in India (and everywhere in the world, really).

68amysisson
Jan 9, 2018, 4:59 pm

I just stumbled upon this thread and plan to read some of the stories you listed. I want to avoid spoilers, though. I'm definitely going to read the first one you listed -- "Black Box".

Thanks!