fiction files redux discussion

Short Story Group Reads > anyone want to read some stories?

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message 1: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
I normally lean toward long fiction, but for some reason I seem to be reading mostly short fiction this summer. So I thought I'd check, anyone feel like reading some stories together?

message 2: by Patrick, photographic eye (new)

Patrick | 133 comments Mod
I'm flooded in short stories at the moment. in a good way. you have something(one) in particular in mind. I could give you list of the collections I'm juggling currently..??

message 3: by Ben, uneasy in a position of power; a yorkshire pudding (new)

Ben Loory | 241 comments Mod
Patty I have to read this anthology

The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories

before my class starts on Sept 27.

I can't actually start it until Sept 1, though... But we could talk about some of those if you like? I think they're mostly pretty standard modern stuff...

message 4: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
Patrick, yes, list the collections you are juggling! I don't really have anything specific in mind.

Ben, I looked for the TOC for that book, and found this. Is this a complete list? I'd be up for reading some of those.

message 5: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
I just read Percival Everett's new book of stories, am currently reading Cesar Aira stories, and also have on my stack Octavia Butler stories and McSweeney's 44 and 47. Plus listening to stories on the New Yorker fiction podcast.

Stories that are available on the internet would be handy, and might encourage others to join us.

message 6: by Patrick, photographic eye (last edited Aug 18, 2015 08:21AM) (new)

Patrick | 133 comments Mod
Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins

New American Stories by Ben Marcus

Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner

Viral Stories by Emily Mitchell

The Lists Of The Past by Julie Hayden

and just finished Damned If I Do by Percival Everett

message 7: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
OK, I started compiling a list of stories in the two anthologies you guys listed, and have started searching them out. Once I have a list of stories that are readily available, I'll post it here. So far it looks like we have a ton of options. Work has been pretty slow at my newest freelance job, so I think I should have a few things by the end of this week. :D

Meanwhile, as I was looking for some of these stories, I came across a whole bunch of new podcast series that I hadn't heard of. I'll let you know if I make any grand discoveries.

message 8: by João (new)

João Camilo (jcamilo) | 259 comments I suggest you more short stories from the Magic Realism line :D

(albeit I am reading Miguel Torga stories that are quite realistic)

message 9: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
I created a new post for discussion of Grace Paley's A Conversation With My Father.

It's not on the list of stories I compiled from the books/posts above, but I really liked it, it's very short, and it seems like a good story to start with.

The discussion thread is

message 10: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
Okay, guys, these are the stories I was able to find online. Some of them are audio/podcasts. Some are "print", which I labeled "visual" in the list below. One link has both. There is a heavy New Yorker presence among the stories I was able to find on line. That's partly because Tobias Wolfe edited the Vintage collection, and he's a NYer author. Partly that's because the NYer is one of the few publications that still has some of it's content freely available online. I will add to this list if we find any of the other stories online.

Charles Yu, Standard Loneliness Package

Denis Johnson, Emergency

George Saunders, Home

Jamaica Kincaid, Girl

Jesse Ball, The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp, and Carr

Kate Braverman, Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta

Kelly Link, Valley of the Girls

Maureen McHugh, Special Economics

Rebecca Curtis, The Toast

Rivka Galchen, The Lost Order

Robert Coover, Going for a Beer

Said Sayrafiezadeh, Paranoia

Stephanie Vaughn, Dog Heaven

Tao Lin, Love is a thing on sale for more money than there exists

Yiyun Li, A Man Like Him

Zadie Smith, Meet the President!

message 11: by Maureen, mo-nemclature (new)

Maureen (modusa) | 683 comments Mod
thanks for posting these patty! since you busted me on adrian's thread, i've been thinking about replying and posting but the sad truth is, i'm still more scattered than i would like to be. that said, i'm more likely to actually read one or two of these since you have provided handy links! i am actually reading a collection of de maupassant's stories right now. i'm glad he was so prolific in his short life. but as usually happens, when i read maupassant, i always think i should go back and read moliere again. :)

message 12: by Patrick, photographic eye (new)

Patrick | 133 comments Mod
Yahoo!! Thanks Patty.

message 13: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 198 comments Yay!!! Thank you, Patty. I will jump on the Paley thread as soon as I can scare up a copy of the story. I know I have it around here somewheres. I have been thinking a lot about Denis Johnson lately, so I think I'll start with your link to Emergency. Love y'all.

message 14: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
Hi Mo, Hi Martha! Glad you will be joining us!

I keep meaning to put my thoughts about the Paley story down, but haven't found the time yet. Hopefully soon!

Hey, do you guys think I should create a new thread for each story? Or should we just add threads as we go? Or just talk about them all here and create total chaos?


message 15: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 198 comments I'm a big fan of chaos. It reminds me of the old days!

message 16: by Patrick, photographic eye (new)

Patrick | 133 comments Mod
I'm content w/chaos for a bit. We can see how things go... Create/branch off to multiple threads as needed.

message 17: by Ben, uneasy in a position of power; a yorkshire pudding (new)

Ben Loory | 241 comments Mod
definitely for chaos

message 18: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
three cheers for anarchy!

message 19: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 198 comments Wow. I had read "Emergency" before, but listening to it was an entirely new experience. (Spoilers ahead - read or listen to the story first.) This acid trip of a story leaves me wondering what is really happening and what is hallucination - Terrence's knife in the eye, the blizzard in September, the graveyard drive-in with the swirling images on the screen, and the bunnies. Maybe the bunnies hooked me most, because they reminded me of an old favorite story when I was a child - Katherine Anne Porter's "The Grave," where Jack and Miranda kill a pregnant rabbit while out hunting. Here is Porter's description of what they find inside: "Very carefully he slit the thin flesh from the center ribs to the flanks, and a scarlet bag appeared. He slit again and pulled the bag open, and there lay a bundle of tiny rabbits, each wrapped in a thin scarlet veil. The brother pulled these off and there they were, dark grey, their sleek wet down lying in minute even ripples, over pink skin, like a baby’s head just washed; their unbelievably small delicate ears folded close, their little blind faces almost featureless."

Johnson mirrors Porter's blurring the lines between the corporeal and spiritual as Georgie and Fuckhead slide from their professional lives to their own relationship to their interactions with others in a hallucinogenic haze. And the transitions! "After a while, you forget it's summer." and "How the slave might become a friend to his master."

I'm dying to know what you guys think about the descriptions of nature, especially the acid-laced tinges of beauty and easy forgetting of sights and events around him. And help me understand what is really happening and what is hallucination. Did Georgie really pull a knife out of Terrence's eye? Help!

message 20: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
It's funny, for a story I dislike so much, how many times I have now read and listened to Emergency! I agree that listening to it is quite different from reading it, and for me it's much more palatable as an audio, mostly because it seems to be over faster. That's not to say it's not a great story, I think it is, but as I think I told Ben once, these characters are too familiar to me, and I think I've already spent enough of my time with their real-world counterparts in person. Which brings me to what strikes me as the main theme. (view spoiler)

message 21: by Patrick, photographic eye (new)

Patrick | 133 comments Mod
Like Patty, I've listened to Emergency a handful of times now, but I can't say I like it. I want to read it again myself & see if that helps. It's certainly potent and memorable- my favorite sections involve the snow and the cemetery/drive-in theater.

message 22: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
Today I read Jesse Ball's The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp, and Carr. The story was kind of amazing in it's ability to keep me off my feet. My head is still kind of spinning. I felt "What just happened?" when I finished it. Matchstick girls? Gargantua? What's going on? Have you guys read that one yet?

I've been reading tons and tons of stories.

message 23: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
Today I read the Rivka Galchen story. I liked it while I was reading it, but felt queasy afterwards. It's one of those stories that feels like inappropriate oversharing. Did you like it?

message 24: by Patrick, photographic eye (last edited Oct 10, 2015 12:00PM) (new)

Patrick | 133 comments Mod
have to confess, i like the Galchen story, a lot. i am aware and have noticed reading through reviews of her work that she seems to irritate a lot of people.

even though she directly references, Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" i didn't realize how much her story is a reworking of his story. i'd never read Thurber was just familiar Walter Mitty via the film versions. but after rereading "the Lost Order" yesterday i looked up the Thurber.

Mitty has an inner life that takes him often to flashier more heroic situations, the narrator here (do we ever get her name??) her inner life seems to leave her in a perpetual fog of mundane self examination/recrimination and painful insecurity, obsessing over her weight, food choices, and what to feed the dog. and then, when someone or something, breaks through that fog, "reality" is no more stable or comforting- it's fraught with awkwardness and miscommunication and potential danger.

she has so many lines and passages and details in here that i love- the throw pillows with matroyshka dolls, photo of Susan Sontag in a bear suit-

"“I’m not going to go look for it,” I find myself saying into the phone. It’s not really a decision, "it’s more like a discovery. I’m not going to be a woman hopelessly searching for a wedding ring in a public courtyard. Even if the situation does not in fact carry the metaphorical weight it misleadingly seems to carry. Still no. I had recently seen a photograph of Susan Sontag wearing a bear costume but still with a serious expression on her face; you could see that she felt uneasy; even a titan is anxious about images that can mislead."

and forgive me, even thinking this i know it may sound ridiculous but i was struck by the specificity of her vagueness. for example, when she is in conversation with her husband and there is a line "He set down his handheld technology." it's kind of a ridiculous throw away line, but in this context it made me laugh and felt perfect.

i understand the queasiness you are talking about. the story is tragically worrisome. but it also made me laugh a lot. and the free associating workings(?) of her mind were familiar to me. maybe that's even more worrisome.

message 25: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
Thanks, Patrick! I had never read the Thurber Story either, so I read it just now. Did they really make a whole movie from that short little story?

The character in the Galchen story is almost the opposite of Walter Mitty, she's overly aware of herself and her surroundings.

message 26: by Patrick, photographic eye (last edited Oct 12, 2015 06:20PM) (new)

Patrick | 133 comments Mod
There are at least two Walter Mitty movies that I know of - the most recent just last year (?) with Ben Stiller.

Now, reading more of her collection, I've found that most(all?) of the stories are reworking a earlier story only from the female perspective. One follows Borge's The Aleph & another Gogol's The Nose.

message 27: by Patrick, photographic eye (new)

Patrick | 133 comments Mod
and Patty, i have read the Jesse Ball story. a couple times and feel like i'm still parsing it. as it started i was hesitant. what's often impressive to me with his work is at first i feel distracted by his style... at best it feels spare/remote, at worst it feels stilted/awkward- but when i keep reading he tends to win me over. he manages to weave in a lot of emotion and detail and by the end of almost everything i've read by him i feel a bit haunted. there is something magical in what he does. but then sometimes i'm just perplexed. not in a bad way, just curious and not sure how to sort it out. this story left me there. but i did like it. quite a bit. and i know i will keep returning to it.

message 28: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
I keep thinking about what you said about the parallels/reworking of Walter Mitty, Patrick. There are some things I just can't figure out. She says she's no Walter Mitty, and implies that her husband is the Mitty in the family (by which I take her to mean that he is absent-minded, which I take as an allusion to the lost wedding ring -- and then I get into trouble, because I have a hard time believing he really "lost" it in the courtyard. Missing wedding rings are a common trope in stories about domestic unhappiness, so I can't help but thinking he is deceiving her about this.) But then he accuses her of keeping things from him, and then he cites the uncashed severance checks as evidence of deception, but the thing is, he knows she's at home all day or he wouldn't keep calling her there, would he? And why wouldn't she cash the checks? Is this one of the many "not doing"s that's she's engaged in?

Anyway, the key difference between Galchen's character and Mitty seems to me to be that while they are both stuck in mundane situations, Mitty's imagination takes him away from the mundane and makes his life exciting. Galchen's character is focused on continuing to not eat and to continue not making spaghetti. On the whole, the story seems purely anecdotal to me, I can't quite figure out what the author wants me to take away from it.

Your thoughts on it, though, definitely added to my enjoyment of it.

message 29: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
The other day I read an excellent story called "Sorry Blood" by Tim Gautreaux. Sadly, it's not online anywhere, as far as I can see, but you guys should seek it out. I found another of his stories online. I didn't love it as much as "Sorry Blood" but I liked it a lot.

message 30: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 198 comments I'm reading The Best American Short Stories 2015, edited by TC Boyle. He's not my favorite writer, but the stories he has picked are blowing me away. So far, I've read:
* "Happy Endings" by Kevin Canty
* "Moving On" by Diane Cook
* "Mr. Voice" by Jess Walter
They are completely different and unique, yet each of them is absolutely haunting and beautiful. Anyone else reading this collection?

message 31: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
I've looked for it in a few bookstores, and everyone is sold out! I'm hoping to find it in the next few days. I like some of Boyle's stories, but I'm not a huge fan either. But I've enjoyed his selections on the New Yorker fiction podcasts quite a bit. I'm looking forward to reading the collection.

message 32: by Dan, deadpan man (new)

Dan | 640 comments Mod
Everett's new short stories were wonderful. I am an admittedly bad short story reader. For some reason I can't handle changing so quickly from one thing to the next. Perhaps I just need to read a story and then put the book down for the day to allow some time to digest.

I did recently pick up Berlin's A Manual for Cleaning Women that I am looking forward to. I've been slowly crawling through that 900 page monster City on Fire so I haven't gotten to it yet.

I am intrigued by the Best Of 2015 from your comments Martha.

message 33: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
I found a copy in Knoxville, TN! I've only read the intro and forward so far.

Martha, I was thinking of you the whole time we were there in Cormac McCarthy's home town. It's a very cool place.

message 34: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 198 comments Oh Patty, I'm so jealous! I have done a little bit of an "All the Pretty Horses" road trip from San Angelo to El Paso, and saw his house when he lived there.

I'm a little surprised, but "Happy Endings" is the story that has stayed with me the longest. So small, and oddly beautiful. The haunting quality of loneliness - I'd like to discuss with you when you are done.

Dan - Cleaning Women is on my list! Likely won't get to it until spring, but would love to talk about it.

message 35: by Martha (last edited Jan 15, 2016 08:41AM) (new)

Martha Kate | 198 comments Also Dan, I've been thinking of the short stories as very rich little candies. Rather than shoving them all in my face during one sitting (as I am prone to do with actual candy), I've been taking one at a time and savoring for a while before launching into another. So I've read a couple of novels within the space of the 2015 collection. It's working for me.

message 36: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
I've read the first hundred pages (7 stories), Martha, including Happy Endings. My least favorite so far was the Louise Erdich story, which sort of surprises me. I really liked Ben Fowlkes's story. I wish I could spend more time mulling them over, I sort of feel like I'm just gobbling them all. I'm sure I'll have to reread a few.

I agree that Happy Endings is very vivid, even though it doesn't have a lot of visual imagery. How does it do that?

message 37: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 198 comments I'm just sort of bouncing around in the collection, so I haven't gotten to Erdrich or Fowlkes yet, but I'll reach out when I do. My least favorite thus far (and this is shocking to me) is the Thomas McGuane. His "Sportsmen" is one of my all-time favorite stories, so I was really looking forward to this one. I think I probably set myself up for the disappointment.

Not sure how you and Patrick will feel about it, but I finished the Denis Johnson this morning, and I'm just kind of reeling from the impact of his language. There are about 5 distinct little vignettes in the story, and he really doesn't so much stitch them together as drop them into a glass of water and let them melt into one another. So beautiful.

For me, Happy Endings is sort of elegant (that definition where simplicity is present in equal measure with grace and beauty). The events are simple, the language, imagery, and even the characters are simply drawn, but they are lasting, and it's the quality of pain and loneliness that is almost visceral. Almost like a simple little melody comprised of a few minor chords, even its plainness resonates outward in a powerful way.

Not sure where I'll go next - maybe the Erdrich, just to get it out of the way!

message 38: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
I read the Denis Johnson story last night, and I agree 100 percent. It's terrific. I'm excited to read it again. I was totally absorbed, even though there wasn't a story per se. There are several lines I thought "I should write that down" but didn't want to break from reading it to find a pencil.

In Happy Endings I thought the feeling of freedom was also visceral. For a story about loss it was very warm.

message 39: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
I was just cleaning up my computer and came across this story again:

The Thing About Shapes to Come,

Did you guys read this? It doesn't look like we talked about it here.

message 40: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
Martha, have you read Madam Lazarus, by Maile Meloy? Oh man, it just gutted me. I couldn't stop crying! I need to look for some of her other books.

message 41: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
More ideas for stories to read, plus a fairly enjoyable read of its own, this guy is reading and writing about a new story every day for a year.

message 42: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 198 comments Patty wrote: "Martha, have you read Madam Lazarus, by Maile Meloy? Oh man, it just gutted me. I couldn't stop crying! I need to look for some of her other books."

I'm just finishing "A Little Life" (not little, on any scale) and am about to turn attention back to short stories. Madam Lazarus is up first!

message 43: by Dan, deadpan man (new)

Dan | 640 comments Mod
How are you liking A Little Life? It was relentlessly sad, but good. Short stories are definitely the way to go as a follow up to that one.

message 44: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 198 comments I think relentless is absolutely the right word, Dan. Beautifully written and such a rich character study, but the repeated narrative flogging - not just abuse, but the worst possible abuse - not just once or six or twenty times, but unceasingly.
I remember my mother once telling me a story about going to see "A Patch of Blue" with my grandmother. My Grandma said, "If that girl drops those beads one more time, we're walking out of here." That's how I felt about those razor blades.

message 45: by Dan, deadpan man (new)

Dan | 640 comments Mod
It's interesting as I was reading it I kept thinking, "Enough already, I get it." but thinking back I don't think I really did. It seems more evident now that it's relentlessness was to make us live through it the way Willem and the others did. So I think it evoked from us exactly the response Yanagihara wanted us to have.

Sorry to hijack this thread.

message 46: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
You can't hijack chaos, Dan!

message 47: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 198 comments Martha wrote: "Patty wrote: "Martha, have you read Madam Lazarus, by Maile Meloy? Oh man, it just gutted me. I couldn't stop crying! I need to look for some of her other books."

I'm just finishing "A Little Life..."

Patty - I had never even heard of Meloy before, but now I am on the hunt for more of her work. I know it's a "traditional" short story structure to use one event to reflect on or analyze a seemingly unrelated event, but the way this one unfolded felt unique and beautiful. Have you watched "Transparent" on Amazon TV? This story brought the Berlin/California connection to mind.

message 48: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 198 comments Dan wrote: "It's interesting as I was reading it I kept thinking, "Enough already, I get it." but thinking back I don't think I really did. It seems more evident now that it's relentlessness was to make us liv..."

Thank you, my friend. I think you are exactly right. Jude's experience (patron saint of lost causes, indeed) wasn't mine, and it doesn't really matter if I "get it" or not. It seems that the relentless pain and the inability to either escape it or process it is exactly what Yanigahara intended to convey. I really appreciate this perspective.

message 49: by Peggy (new)

Peggy Walsh | 35 comments is anyone doing a short story list for 2018?

message 50: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 198 comments Hi Peggy - Nice to see this thread resurrected. I just finished Her Body and Other Parties, which was just magnificent. I’ve also been thinking about picking up the Best Of... collection for 2017. I think Meg Wolitzer is the editor. Anybody interested? Where’s Shel?

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