Posts Tagged ‘short stories’
Today marks the end of National Short Story Week and I actually did read quite a bit of short fiction, including two great stories about the sea.
First up, ‘Drawn Up From Deep Places’ by Gemma Files. This is part of my continued read-through of Beneath Ceaseless Skies and is exactly the sort of ‘Literary Adventure Fantasy’ I’ve been searching for. It is part of a series so I’m looking forward to going back to read ‘Two Captains’ as well as future installments.
Next, ‘The Mussel Eater’ by Octavia Cade. I only discovered Cade earlier in the year but she has had a prolific and impressive 2014. ‘The Mussel Eater’ is shorter and sharper than most of the other work she published this year but is wonderful to have. Equally wonderful to have is Book Smugglers Publishing.
As well as reading, I also made a rare excursion outside the house to see Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy at my old local church, St John’s in Hackney. I hadn’t read anything about the gig in advance so was surprised and pleased to see he was joined by Matt Sweeney which meant we were treated to this rendition of ‘My Home Is The Sea’:
The Millions have helpfully put together an annotated list of all the fiction that appeared in the New Yorker last year. It includes stories by three writers I admire a lot:
Wolff is one of my favourite short story writers but really this is just a vignette. He still manages to conjure up a lot from very little though; a callow youth awake next to his sleeping girlfriend in the middle fo the night, picking at the scabs of his own self-doubt whilst at the same time inadvertantly revealing even more about his character.
This is a very slowly told and gentle story. Burnside’s style is always somewhat detached – even in his superb memoir, A Lie About My Father – but usually it has a greater sense of immediacy and it is frequently punctuated by violence. Here the story resolutely mirrors its quiet, isolated setting as it describes a woman struggling with her desire for something other than her life.
Both the above stories could be considered typical New Yorker fare. Lethem’s science fiction story of an astronaut trapped in orbit is different but shares the same atmosphere of muted despair. Presented as a series of letters to a lover on Earth it chronicles life in the remorseless face of entropy.
All three have written better but they are worth checking out and the list is definitely worth a perusal.
When I read ‘Biographical Notes to “A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes,” by Benjamin Rosenbaum’ by Benjamin Rosenbaum as part of Feeling Very Strange I said I hoped to say more about Rosenbaum’s fiction. And now I have.
A Discussion About The Ant King And Other Stories between myself, Niall Harrison, Abigail Nussbaum and Dan Hartland has just been published at Torque Control.
I read this immediately after finishing Falling Man and it has that same sort of rhetorical, inward, yearning style. Unfortunately Rickert doesn’t have the same level of control as DeLillo. This is one of the few stories in the collection I can happily accept as slipstream but it falls victim to the problems that Kelly and Kessel identify as occassionally besetting the style: a tendency to “idle noodling”, to “uncommited allusions”. Idle noodling is too harsh for this story but it is certainly unsatisfying.
I was ready to castigate ‘Twelve Petals’ for just being another alt history too – which it is – but it blends this with the fairytale of Sleeping Beauty to some effect. It is still a fairytale though and it would be nice to think there is more to slipstream than ironic folklore.
Well, at least it isn’t about Hitler winning the war. The only reason I can guess that this alt history was included is, er, because it has a love of 16th Century plays. Yeah.
My novels are fantasy/adventure stories with a modicum of metaphsyical whim-wham that some find to be insightful and others have termed “overcooked navel gazing”. Granted, there are no elves or dragons or knights or wizards in these books, but they are still fantasies, none the less. I mean, if you have a flying head, a town with a panopticon that floats in the clouds, a monster that sucks the essense out of hapless victimes through their ears, what the hell else can you call it?
A unnamed writer who seems much like Jeffrey Ford is writing a story called ‘Bright Morning’, inspired by a lost Kafka of the same name. Later a writer called Jeffrey Ford does show up as the unnamed writer’s rival. With so recursive a plot it could easily have been overcooked nazel gazing but it is so perfectly controlled that it is actually the finest stories in the collection by some margin. Ford blends autobiography, writer’s memoir and literary criticism with an almost pulpish piece of modern folklore to produce a beautifully measured story that exists in the cracks of what is real and what is not.
This is how you should do it, Benjamin Rosenbaum.
Ford on slipstream in an interview with Matt Cheney:
Fictional hybrids are always more powerful than genre purebreds — they are more resilient, they have the potential to surprise, the power to escape the gravitational attraction of tradition. Until, of course, they themselves become accredited purebreds, as is now happening with what some call “slipstream”.